Congratulations, you just drafted a modern day Jack Lambert. Eagles nation should be popping champagne bottles, wearing party hats and letting out screams of pure elation and joy. Why? Because again, you just drafted a modern day Jack Lambert. You just stabilized the future of your defense by drafting an extremely talented and intelligent player who makes others around him better. He’s the Peyton Manning of linebackers, he isn’t a screaming, vocal presence like Ray Lewis or Brian Dawkins but he’s a tone setter, he sets the tone when watching film, he sets the tone in practice, he sets the tone on game day and he demands that guys play on his level.
Where do you even begin? Luke Kuechly is going to be great in my opinion. So how do I explain why I think he’ll be great? Lets give it a shot after the jump.
Frank Spaziani, head coach of the Boston College football team, tosses around names like “The Boy Wonder” and “The Human Eraser” to try and describe Luke Kuechly. He’s been adorned with plenty of nicknames but none of them caught on quite as well as “Clark Kent” did and it’s easy to see why. Clark Kent had his latex suit; Luke Kuechly has his pads and helmet.
Much like the infamous comic book character Kuechly is a meek, modest and unassuming person that is almost soft-spoken when out of disguise. He is so well spoken and intelligent that you’d likely never guess Kuechly was a football player if you met him; one would be more likely to think he was a rocked up scientist of some sort. In a world where athletes skate through school and rely on their athletic talents to carry them, Luke is an exception. Luke Kuechly is one of the most clear, concise and intelligent communicators in football today. He is clearly the sort of player that is ready to command and lead a defense at the next level. He can talk the talk and he can walk the walk or as BC fullback Jake Sinkovec puts it, “No matter how good he is on the field, I think everything he stands for off of it is just as important”.
While some players are just skating by and waiting to jump at their first opportunity to get to the NFL, Luke Kuechly thrived in the classroom and off the field. Luke Kuechly didn’t treat college as if it was a means to an end; he immersed himself in it and took everything out of it that he could. He is one of few top college athletes who take their academic success as seriously as their football success. Luke Kuechly is a full semester ahead of schedule, a far cry from another junior linebacker who left school because of academic problems (Burfict). Despite being a super player, Kuechly remained a humble and hard working player who deflects all praise, not too unlike Clark Kent.
But perhaps most importantly, Luke Kuechly has the desire to be great. He wants to win, he cares about the game and he genuinely cares and connects with his teammates. Despite playing for a losing team Kuechly was still giving his full effort unlike a certain other linebacker who couldn’t even give a good effort in a bowl game (again, Burfict). He is relentless on the field and he very clearly plays his heart out. Little mistakes stick in his head and nag at him. That would suggest he cares about the game and the film he puts out unlike another linebacker prospect that his rumored to have went out drinking the night before his bowl game (Burfict, again).
…how close he was to the all-time NCAA tackles record: It’s two, right? I always think about the tackles I missed, not the ones I made. Maybe that’s just how the human brain is wired. I remember the first game of the season against Northwestern. They ran a QB draw to my left, their right. I overran the play and they scored a touchdown. I remember exactly what play we ran and everything. That’s what ticks me off.
He metamorphosed at Boston College. Kuechly arrived at Boston College as a 6’2” and 220 pound, 3 star linebacker prospect that played safety in high school and he left as a 240 pound, top linebacker prospect who was one of the most productive and accomplished linebackers in college football history. He soaked up knowledge from BC veterans and eventually showed enough to become a starter in his freshman year. In his freshman year he was named to the all-freshman defensive team and was awarded the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year award. This was only the start of the awards for Luke Kuechly. He eventually became the winner of the Lombardi, Butkus, Lambert and Lott Awards. He also became the all-time leading tackler in the ACC conference and he finished only 2 tackles behind the NCAA all-time leader despite playing one less season.
I firmly believe that Luke Kuechly is the sort of player who makes players around him better. He isn’t a vocal leader that will rile everyone up, rather he is the perceptive, lead by example type of leader. He puts in all sorts of work and his intelligence allows him to call a defense as well as align other players correctly.
“The way he prepares, he’s into it every time. Very rarely have I seen him ever have an off day or an off hour. He’s into it, he’s looking to get better. He’s a gentleman off the field, but on the field he’s just what you would want out of a football player. He’s got a competitive streak in him, he’s got a little edge to him, he’s a little irritable.’’
-Boston College Defensive Coordinator Bill McGovern
“I think football is a lifestyle more than anything. It’s how you eat, it’s how you sleep, it’s how you conduct yourself. It’s just everything you do you have to keep in mind, is this going to help or have a positive impact on how my practice is going to be, how my workout is going to be, how the game is going to be. If you [can] go out or get a night’s sleep a couple of days prior to a game, you’ve got to get the sleep because that’s going to impact you more in a positive way.”
“The thing about Luke that you realize is he will do everything he can to be as good as he can be. There won’t be a stone left unturned.”
I’ll freely admit that Luke Kuechly isn’t a great athlete on the field and he isn’t going to be a great man cover linebacker. However people pretending that he is terrible in coverage need to stop, he is sneaky athletic and he does a good job finding the ball in the air. And when he drops into zone coverage, he is the absolute best in the draft and it isn’t close. He gets proper depth, he shows good zone awareness and he breaks on the ball. And he should become one of the better run stoppers in the NFL with his combination of intelligence, size, technique and instincts. He makes plays all over the field in the run game.
People calling him small, undersized and soft clearly haven’t watched Luke. Luke has said that he is currently 6’2” (and some change) and 242 pounds. That is great size for a linebacker, especially a rookie linebacker. And he clearly has the ability to add girth to his frame, he could bulk up to about 250 pounds and not lose anything. Additionally, people calling Luke soft clearly have never watched him. Luke is relentless in pursuit and does whatever it takes to get someone on the ground. He throws his body around and he will pop up and get in an extra bump without being excessive. Just because the most “expressive” word he lets out is “Gosh!” doesn’t mean he is soft, just ask Brian “Doggonit” Dawkins.
And I’ll say it again, do you know who Luke reminds me of? Jack Lambert.
But how will he be used on the Eagles? Didn’t they just trade for Demeco Ryans? Well, Luke Kuechly has experience playing a little bit of everything. He started at weakside linebacker his freshman year and he played middle linebacker the next two. And when you watch him play he’ll line up where a strong side linebacker would typically line up. Since the Eagles already have DeMeco Ryans, Luke Kuechly would likely have to play WLB. Personally, I don’t think that Kuechly would make a very good strong side linebacker. As a strong side linebacker he’d be charged with more man coverage responsibilities and he’d have to take on more blockers in the running game, neither of which particularly suits him. He’d be best off on the weakside where he’ll have more space to move in and see what is developing and he won’t have to flip his hips and run with a tight end as often. This suits Kuechly much better as he is at his best when he is kept clean and free to pursue the ball carrier and when he is able to sit back and read route combinations and watch the QB.
PS- If you want video content, I did that a few months ago (link).