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Kuechly Receives a Hero's Welcome

“There’s something special about seeing your name up there.”

Come tomorrow’s game against ACC-rival Syracuse, that dream will become true for the Carolina Panthers’ middle-linebacker and former BC standout Luke Kuechly. As the Eagles take on Syracuse, #40 will fly high atop Alumni Stadium, commemorating the most premier defensive player in Boston College football history. Kuechly will join Mike Ruth (68) and Doug Flutie (22), the only two numbers currently retired by the football program, in perhaps the greatest honor a college team can grant a former player.

In anticipation of Kuechly’s number retirement ceremony tomorrow, BC Football held an on-campus press conference Friday afternoon at the Yawkey Center. The magnitude of the honor wasn’t lost on Kuechly, who spoke nostalgically of his time on the Heights. A junior-year resident of recently demolished Edmunds Hall, Kuechly has fond memories of on-campus housing, quite similar to experiences of any other BC graduate.

“Just hanging out, messing around, that’s what I miss the most,” Kuechly said of his off-field memories of BC.

After leading the nation with 191 tackles during his junior season, Kuechly bolted for the NFL. Selected ninth overall by the Carolina Panthers, Kuechly has accumulated a well-earned football resume, including the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award and a Super Bowl appearance last season. Despite his successful rookie year, Kuechly returned to the Heights to finish his degree. After taking five courses at BC and the remaining classes online, Kuechly finally earned his degree last summer. When asked what drove him to finish school, he gave an honest answer, “My mom told me to do it.”

But Kuechly credits BC with offering him more than just life-long friends, dorm-life memories, and an outstanding education. He emphasized the culture of hard work and perseverance taught by former BC defensive coordinator Bill McGovern and the rest of the Eagles’ football program. Kuechly specifically acknowledged former players like Mike McLaughlin and Matt Tennant, who provided him with examples to follow when he was an underclassman.

“They set the standard of what’s acceptable. They played hard and they loved BC.”

Other teammates such as linebacker Mark Herzlich, who battled the rare cancer Ewing’s sarcoma during his collegiate career, also set a high standard for Kuechly. Due to injuries, Kuechly found himself atop the depth chart at BC earlier than even he anticipated.

Nevertheless, he credits the leadership from upperclassmen combined with the high standard of excellence that allowed him to flourish. As noted by others in the room, surely this has only allowed Kuechly to continue to play with a high level of energy and passion at the professional level. According to Kuechly, that sense of hard work and honor has remained ever-present within him even after his time at BC.

Alongside the three-time All-Pro and 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner, sat BC legend Doug Flutie. While the spotlight was rightfully on Kuechly, Flutie offered his own perspective on the retirement ceremony. The former Heisman Trophy Winner echoed Kuechly’s words, emphasizing the great pride associated with putting his mark on a BC’s football program.

Flutie had high praise for Kuechly, comparing his professional demeanor to that of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. With years remaining in his career, Kuechly will have even more opportunities to bring fame to another New England football team. Tomorrow may only be the first stepping stone, as Kuechly becomes permanently enshrined as one of BC’s all-time heroes.

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Ryan Fennell