After Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly retired from the NFL on Tuesday at 28 years old, fellow players chimed in on social media to express their shock and celebrate his career.
Kuechly, drafted ninth overall in 2012, made the Pro Bowl in every season after his rookie year and anchored a Carolina defense that spent a chunk of the past decade as one of the best in the league. But he also struggled with recurring injuries, including at least three known concussions between the 2015 and 2017 seasons.
In an emotional video message, Kuechly said the physical toll football had taken on his body contributed to his decision.
"The only way to play this game, since I was a little kid, is to play fast and play physical and play strong," Kuechly said. "At this point, I don't know 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."
“In my heart, I know it’s the right thing to do.” pic.twitter.com/mSDyJ0iEMw— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 15, 2020
Here are some of the reactions from around the NFL to Kuechly's retirement:
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
Easily one of my favorite teammates and one of the top 3 best players that I’ve seen. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you! https://t.co/zrDa2mo2HU— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) January 15, 2020
One the best humans, friend, teammate anyone could ever want! Thanks for everything bud! We all love ya! https://t.co/CnYDbIvLYm— Derek Anderson (@DAnderson314) January 15, 2020
One of the Best Teammates I’ve ever had! The 1st person you meet when you come into the locker room. Always told people I’d teach my son to be like you! You’re the model of The Standard! Future HOFer! Proud to call you one of the bros! One heck of a career! Love you bro! LUUUUKE! https://t.co/NcB3MQExMg— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) January 15, 2020
Wowww. Always loved watching you play. It was a pleasure playing against you. True leader on and off the field. God bless https://t.co/GbHifP90rG— Dwayne Haskins, Jr (@dh_simba7) January 15, 2020
As a fellow linebacker in the 2012 draft, Luke Kuechly was the cream of the crop.— Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) January 15, 2020
I respect the hell out of his decision to retire. He missed 3 games in ‘15, & the final 6 games of ‘16 with a concussion. He is a hall of famer, but life is more than football. pic.twitter.com/O7ep4ZxjJP