CHARLOTTE – The last time Luke Kuechly had a job that didn't require him to play football, it was the summer of 2008.
"My family ran an auto parts company. That was my last job when I was in high school. I worked in the warehouse as a warehouse picker," Kuechly recalled Thursday night.
That's right. Before becoming a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker and one of the best players in Panthers' history, Kuechly spent his summers at J&N Auto Electric in Cincinnati.
But what's a warehouse picker?
"As a picker, you print out a sheet that has an order form on it," Kuechly explained. "You go through the order form, you take everything off the shelves, drop it off at packaging, then they package it up and ship it off."
Twelve summers later, Kuechly has a new job. It's a lot different from his warehouse picking days, but it's pretty similar to what he's been doing the past eight years.
Kuechly on Thursday officially joined the Panthers' front office as a pro scout. The role will require a lot of film watching, and in case you haven't heard, that's something Kuechly did a lot of as a player. Now he'll be doing it for players — and coaches.
"During the season, it'll be player evaluation and then advance scouting stuff. So if we play a team next week, we've got to get everything set up and ready to go, so when the coaches come in on Monday, they're not starting from square one," Kuechly said.
There will be a few differences in what Kuechly will be looking for on film in his new gig. As a player, his studying mostly focused on trying to dissect an upcoming opponent's possible game plan.
"You were always looking at schemes and tendencies and where you think a team is going to attack you on the defensive side of the ball," Kuechly said.
And now …
"I think it'll be different in the sense that we're not necessarily looking for scheme as we are players," Kuechly continued. "Are the players good? What's their skillset? What are they good at? What are they not good at?
"Say we're looking at a guy like Christian (McCaffrey). It's like, 'All right guys, he's really explosive, he's dangerous in the open field, he catches the ball extremely well out of the backfield, he's a matchup problem for linebackers.' I think it's going to be more like that."
This role could be the first step on a front office ladder for Kuechly. But he's not yet ready to commit that kind of climb.
"I've never really done anything like this, so I'm just going to take it a day at a time and see what I think," Kuechly said. "I think it'll be fun. It's still going to be football. It's still going to be around good people. That's what matters."
Kuechly did consider other jobs for this first stage of his post-playing career. Broadcasting was an option. So was coaching. But for now, this felt like the best fit.
"The biggest is thing is I still wanted to be involved with the team, around the game, and I wanted to be in the building because I still have a lot of people in the building that I'm friends with and I enjoy being around and I wasn't ready to quite give that up," Kuechly said.
"I explored some other things, and they were all really cool opportunities. But I like being around the team, I like being around Charlotte, I like the guys upstairs (in the front office), and this will give me, I think, the closest thing I can get to playing."
View photos of Luke Kuechly from his record-breaking eight seasons with the Carolina Panthers.