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Kuechly stays humble in spotlight


As soon as he stepped on stage, anyone who has covered Luke Kuechly's Panthers career knew how the linebacker would react to winning Defensive Rookie of the Year at the NFL Honors show.

"These honors tonight are individual awards, but football is such a team game that you've got to thank the guys around you," Kuechly said.

A typical, humble, team-first response from the NFL tackle leader and former first-round pick.

It's that kind of sentiment that makes Kuechly such a fan favorite and is part of what makes him so likeable.

"I got up there and I kind of just went with it," Kuechly said in a phone interview. "When I was done I tried to get off the stage as quick as I could."

Center stage at an awards show isn't exactly Kuechly's comfort zone, but it was a memorable night.

There was a chance to meet future Hall of Famer Brett Favre and words of encouragement from Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who presented the award to Kuechly.

Standing on stage meant looking right at Peyton, Eli and Archie Manning, who were all seated in the front row.

"There were a lot of cool people down there," Kuechly said.

After briefly mingling with other NFL stars and celebrities down in New Orleans, Kuechly traded in the dark suit for a backpack and notebook.

He flew back north to work on completing his degree at Boston College.

"It's been good; school is just how I remember it," Kuechly said. "You have to pay attention and take some notes. I definitely didn't miss class, but it is cool being back."

Being back on campus is a comfort zone for Kuechly, where he's one of the guys again, a student studying for exams and hanging out with his buddies.

"It's neat to be around all of my friends again," Kuechly said. "I wanted to spend a little more time with them before everyone kind of goes off and does their own thing."

Kuechly, of course, will return to Charlotte to resume his budding NFL career once he finishes school. As much as he likes being "one of the guys", his career path is a unique one among friends and fellow students.

He may not see it this way, but he's a bit of a standout.

Kuechly is a Boston College legend, the NCAA record holder for tackles per game with 14, an All-American who finished his collegiate career with the second-highest tackle total of all time. 

Now, he's the young leader of an NFL defense.

That said, has he been constantly stopped for autographs and pictures during his walks to and from class?

"Nah, not really," Kuechly said. "I kind of just blend in with everyone else."

Until he puts the pads back on.

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