Kuechly’s Decision to Retire Could Save Others

Schuyler Callihan

Giving up something you love is never easy, especially something like the game of football. For former Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, it was unexpected. He never planned to retire at such a young age and no one can mentally prepare themselves for an early exit. 

During an emotional video last month, Kuechly announced that he would be retiring from the game as a precaution to further injuries. 

“It’s never the right time to step away, but now is the right time for me. It’s a tough decision, I’ve thought about it a lot and now is the right chance for me to move on,” Kuechly said. “It makes me sad because I love playing this game and I’ve played it since I was a little kid and it’s my favorite thing in the world to do.”

What makes this decision tough for Kuechly is knowing that he was just about to enter what many believe to be a player’s “prime” years of their career. He was already one of the leagues’s  best players and considered to be the NFL’s most dominant defensive players.

However, at some point, life must be put into perspective. Is playing another year or two worth it? Is it worth risking further brain damage? Is playing football more valuable than quality of life? These are all questions that Kuechly had to consider. Ultimately he made the choice. It’s not about pleasing others, racking up stats or continue playing to chase after a Super Bowl ring that may or may not ever come. It’s about what is in the best interest of the player and making sure that when they leave the game, they don’t leave in dangerous health. Kuechly suffered three concussions during his playing career, which played a big factor into his decision to retire early. 

He’s also not the first NFL star to retire early. Calvin Johnson, Barry Sanders, Patrick Willis and Rob Gronkowski also called it a career way before they were truly expected to. The fact that Kuechly did it at the near height of his career is courageous. His decision could likely save future NFL players from playing too long when injuries start to amount. 

Several former NFL players have suffered from CTE and changed the way they were able to live. If you are unfamiliar with what CTE is, it is a term that is used to describe brain degeneration that mainly stems from repeated head traumas.   Junior Seau, Aaron Hernandez, Andre Waters, Ken Stabler, Chris Henry and Mike Webster are just a few notable players to have suffered from CTE. It is a growing concern among the football community and players and coaches at all levels need to be educated on this terrible disease. 

If interested, Kuechly could remain close to football and get a position as an assistant coach somewhere at either the collegiate or professional level. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule expressed interest in having Kuechly eventually returning to the Panthers as an assistant sometime in the near future. Although something like that may not happen right away, it just goes to show that once a player’s playing career is over, life goes on and you can continue to stay close to the game at the same time. 

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