Luke Kuechly Retires from the NFL at Age 28

Geoffrey Dean, Chief Data Editor

Luke Kuechly, a veteran middle linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, announced his retirement via Twitter on Tuesday evening. Kuechly’s retirement came as a shock to many people, as the former Boston College standout was only twenty-eight years old. The Panthers selected Kuechly with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

For eight seasons, Luke Kuechly was a staple of the Panther’s defense, earning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, along with seven Pro Bowls and five First-Team All-Pro nominations. Kuechly helped lead the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015, though they ultimately fell to the Denver Broncos.

Kuechly’s linebacker class of 2012 was perhaps one of the most prolific of all time, with future Hall of Famers, such as the Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner and the New England Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower, being selected that same year. Out of all of this talent, Kuechly stands alone as the top overall tackler of this group. He leads the pack with 1092 tackles since 2012. He is closely followed by Wagner who has recorded 1075 tackles. The only other linebacker from this class to notch over 1000 in this category is Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 1007.

Not only does Kuechly lead in total tackles, he also has the highest tackle percentage of his peers. Tackle percentage is the percentage of snaps that a particular player records a tackle. Over his eight-year career, Kuechly has a tackle percentage of 15.14%, which is roughly half a percent higher than Bobby Wagner’s mark of 14.67%, which ranks second.

Elite success in such a physical sport comes at a price, and Kuechly is no stranger to the consequences. The star middle linebacker suffered two serious concussions in consecutive seasons, missing a total of nine games. Kuechly is part of a growing pool of players who have retired far earlier than expected. He joins former stars such as Calvin Johnson Jr., Andrew Luck, and Rob Gronkowski, all of whom retired before the age of 30.

After leading the Panthers to a Super Bowl and cementing himself as a household name, Luke Kuechly will forever remain in the hearts of Carolina Panthers fans. Fortunately, even if he won’t be playing on Sunday’s, there’s still hope he’ll continue playing his part in CPI commercials.