Kuechly's hard work pays off

CHARLOTTE – Luke Kuechly earned this moment. Earned every bit of the five-year contract extension he signed Thursday that will keep him in Carolina through 2021.

And the star linebacker earned the right to step back and soak in such a noteworthy accomplishment.

But that's not his style. Never has been. Never will be.

"It's awesome. I want to thank Mr. Richardson for allowing me to be a part of this organization. I appreciate all that he's done for me. I've enjoyed my time here, and I'm glad it's going to continue," Kuechly said.

"But now that this is done we can focus on football. That's what I'm most excited about."

Kuechly is eager to shift the focus away from him and onto the 2015 season. But this is a special player and a special moment for a franchise.

The 24-year-old Kuechly is a former Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time first-team All-Pro selection, a two-time Pro Bowler. He's led the NFL in tackles twice in three seasons.

"I've worked really hard to get to where I am," Kuechly said.

He sure has. But that's about as much credit as he was willing to give himself.

"It's never really been about me," Kuechly said. "I want to win, and with winning comes a group of guys and a whole building of people to make a win happen. For me, I'm one guy in an 11-man defense that needs to do my job to make the play work."

No linebacker does their job better than Kuechly.

His teammates know that. The coaches know that. Opponents know it, too.

That respect and admiration is humbling. But there's a lot more work that lies ahead.

"When I first got here, I just tried to put my head down and work as hard as I could, and to get to this point now is really cool," Kuechly said. "I just try to work as possible, and it's nice that people notice that. I just have to keep working so people continue to feel that way."

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