Among the questions asked of linebacker Luke Kuechly at the 2012 NFL Combine: “How do you pronounce your name?”
His answer? “Luuuuke!”
OK, that wasn’t actually his answer.
Kuechly answered the question in the business-like manner he’s so known for. And now, of course, everyone knows his name.
The swarm of media that descends on the combine every February interviews the prospects prior to their workouts, and Kuechly got the typical questions coming off his medical evaluations.
What was your height? 6-3. Weight? 242. Will you run the 40? Yes.
That was lead-up to the media asking Kuechly about what was considered the lingering question about the second-leading tackler in NCAA history: his athleticism.
“I think that’s one thing about the combine - it gives you an opportunity to show how you can move in different scenarios,” Kuechly told the media. “There’s different time drills as well as position drills led by coaches. I think it’s an opportunity for me tomorrow to show I can move well.”
And move Kuechly did, recording the third-fastest 40 time among linebackers (4.58 seconds), the third-highest vertical leap (38.0 inches) and the best 60-yard shuttle time (11.43 seconds) at the 2012 event.
Few were questioning the football IQ of Kuechly, who when asked to describe himself as a player started out using the word “instinctual” before continuing with, “I think I'm a smart player. I think I do a pretty good job preparing myself.”
That has proven to be an understatement, though one reporter asked Kuechly a question that proved to be pretty prophetic in retrospect: How do you think you would handle being the defensive play-caller over veterans?
“I think you’ve got to be right. You’ve got to be right with what you’re doing,” Kuechly said. “You’ve got to get in the playbook, you’ve got to study. That’s your job now, so you've got to take time, that you probably wouldn’t otherwise previously, to get in that playbook, to become familiar with what you’re doing…so you can be confident in what you're doing. You want to earn guys respect quicker that way.'”
And that’s how it played out after the Panthers picked him at No. 9 in the 2012 NFL Draft. Kuechly started the first four games of his rookie season on the outside with defensive leader Jon Beason continuing to man the middle, but Kuechly moved to the middle after Beason suffered a knee injury and has been there ever since. Kuechly was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, then NFL Defensive Player of the Year the next season, and he’s the NFL’s leading tackler since joining the league.
But back at the combine in 2012, no one knew what the future held.
“I’ve been watching the draft for I don’t know how long,” Kuechly said then. “You want to get your name called on that first day, you want to be on that first-day list, when he says, ‘So-and-so selects, Luke Kuechly, linebacker, Boston College.’”
“So-and-so” turned out to be the Panthers, and Kuechly’s name has been called out by celebrating fans countless times since.
View photos of linebacker Luke Kuechly taking part in the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.