It's been called âThe World's Toughest Job Interview.â For six days at the NFL Combine (Feb. 22 â Feb. 28), college football's best will be measured, interviewed, tested, watched and analyzed by countless NFL coaches, general managers and scouts conducting all of their due diligence before the NFL Draft. To prepare, more than two dozen prospects have traveled to IMG Academy for six-plus weeks of Physical, Mental, Communication, Nutrition and Vision training withAthletic & Personal Development program specialists and on-field training with some of the game's top football coaches through theIMG Academy football program.
Name a defensive award or accolade, and Luke Kuechly likely won it during his career at Boston College. First-team All-American. Butkus Award. Nagurski Trophy. Bowl MVP. Best fly fisherman in his family. Kuechly recently took some time to talk about his fishing hobby, his father's nickname and what he learned from Mark Herzlich.
Luke Kuechly on...
...the correct pronunciation of his name: A lot of times people just pronounce it with anything that starts with a âKâ and ends with a âchâ in it. It's KEEK-ly. A lot people say Kooch or Keech or something like that. In grade school, it wasn't too bad, because I had an older brother go through first. In football, though, they always messed it up. One guy ended up just calling me âCookieâ because that's the easiest thing he could think of.
...his middle-brother personality: As kids, John, my older brother, would just eat and sleep. I would cry and do everything and always needed walked or held. My younger brother Henry is 13, John is 22 and Henry gets a lot of crap from me. John is about 6-1, but he's thick. Henry's going to be about 6-5 - a stretched-out kid. My mom's tall and my dad's short. My mom's like six-one and my dad's five-ten. I have him saved in my phone as âWee-man.â
...relaxing off the field: In northern Ohio, there's a trout club that we always go to when I'm home. My family and I go on trips all the time. We've been to Canada, Alaska, Florida - all over the place. My biggest fish is a 25-pound King Salmon. It's relaxing. It's a way to get away from things. It's not as much about catching as many fish as possible now, it's about the quiet and relaxation. I'm the best in the family, though. I'm going to claim the title.
...learning from fellow BC linebacker Mark Herzlich: We've gotten closer in the past year. I've been able to talk to him more this year. He helped me when I was a freshman, but obviously he was trying to beat cancer.
What makes Mark so good is his passion. He was always the most jacked-up person on the sidelines, even when he wasn't playing. He just loves football. People would ask me if I was surprised Mark was playing after beating cancer. We had no doubt he was going to play again. It's like Mark got cancer, then beat cancer and it was like, âOkay, that was no big deal. What's next?â He just brushed it off.
...playing a leadership role: When I was a freshman, it wasjust absorbing and watching what the leaders on the team and how they did it. With Mark, for example, he just knew so much. It was like he knew as much as the coaches. It was easy for him. So I was like, âIf he can know that much, why can't I?â This year, I tried to play the leadership role and pass along anything I could to the young guys. Being a leader is different for everyone. I'm not a big in-your-face guy. I'm about doing stuff the right way and setting the right example. Being a leader is just who you are. You can't decide to be a leader.
...how close he was to the all-time NCAA tackles record: It's two, right? (Ed note: correct). 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.
...his proudest achievement at BC: My sophomore year, we were one game away from not being bowl-eligible. We were 2-5 and went on to win five straight games. We had a bunch of players hurt. Alex Albright, a guy from my high school and a big reason why I went to BC, broke his leg. He was a fifth-year senior and could probably make it back in time for the bowl game if we made it, so that motivated me. We came together and won five straight games and made a bowl game. It was just cool to see everyone come together.
Best linebacker ever: Ray Lewis
Most embarrassing sports moment: When I was playing lacrosse, I was playing goalie. They threw the ball to a kid on a long pass and I just smashed him. The problem was when I hit him his arms flew forward. I knew I crushed him, but I started looking around the ball, turned around and saw it in the net.
Travel to one place in the world: Somewhere tropical, warm and where I can take my fly rod.
One talent you wish you had: Play the guitar or draw.
First big purchase in NFL: A projection screen and a couch to watch movies.