Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly stunned the NFL on Tuesday night with an annoucement on Twitter that the 28-year-old is retiring from professional football.
Kuechly, an eight-year veteran who has played his entire career for the Panthers, did not give a specific reason for his retirement in the 3 minute, 35 second video where he appeared close to tears on several occasions. But he has a history of concussions and said, "In my heart, I know it's the right thing to do."
“In my heart, I know it’s the right thing to do.” pic.twitter.com/mSDyJ0iEMw
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 15, 2020
"There's only one way to play this game, since I was a little kid, is to play fast and play physical and play strong," Kuechly said in the video. "At this point, I'm not sure if I'm able to do that anymore. That's the part that is most difficult. I still want to play, but I don't think it's the right decision."
The middle linebacker is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. A fan favorite in Charlotte, he was often greeted by bellows of "Luuuuuuuke" when he made a standout play.
Kuechly added that he hopes to still be involved in football, but did not give further details.
NFL players from across the country were quick to offer praise and well wishes to Kuechly via Twitter.
I couldn’t be more proud to call you my brother! Congrats on a heck of a career! The game will miss you as much as you miss the game bro! I love you my brother! https://t.co/6jw3C1xeZK
— Thomas Davis (@ThomasDavisSDTM) January 15, 2020
Words can’t describe who Luke Kuechly is as a person, friend, and teammate. We have shared countless memories together both on the field and away from it. I feel honored to be his friend and I’ll always appreciate the impact he has had on my life. Love you buddy pic.twitter.com/0DHYkOwDp1
— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) January 15, 2020
Luke kuechly is one of most pure and authentic people i’ve met! He was a great teammate and friend! honored to have played with you! The gridiron will miss your presence but I’m excited to see what the next chapter has for you! love you Bro! #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/0a6k4urcRu
— Jonathan Stewart (@Jonathanstewar1) January 15, 2020
Incredible player and person.
The game is going to miss you brother! https://t.co/UxKiTkww7S
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) January 15, 2020
Congrats @LukeKuechly on early retirement. You were a fearless player out there on the field. Soooo....when are you coming back??
— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) January 15, 2020