Luke Kuechly lifts lid on pre-draft connection with Ron Rivera
By Dean Jones
Luke Kuechly lifted the lid on his pre-draft connection to former Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera that played a role in him being taken at No. 8 in 2012.
Luke Kuechly being drafted by the Carolina Panthers was written in the stars. The legendary linebacker typified everything that was great about the organization before taking the difficult decision to hang up his cleats after a sensational eight-year career that makes him a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame sooner rather than later.
The Panthers struck gold when they selected Kuechly at No. 8 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. He came with a big reputation from Boston College and lived up to this almost as soon as he stepped on the field, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in consecutive seasons to start his unbelievable stint in Carolina.
Although Kuechly’s time ended with a tinge of sadness after health concerns prevented him from playing on, he is still making an impact within the franchise after the Panthers made the shrewdest of moves to keep him around in his new pro scot role.
The likes of Jeremy Chinn have spoken glowingly about the perennial All-Pro’s willingness to help young players with their game-day preparations, which is a testament to how much he still cares about the game of football following retirement.
Even though it was something of a surprise to see Carolina draft Kuechly when they had Thomas Davis on the roster, he recently revealed a connection between himself and former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera that was a huge factor in the organization bringing him on board.
Luke Kuechly’s ties with Ron Rivera began in college.
Speaking on The Artist and the Athlete podcast with Lindsay Czarniak which also featured 2020 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Luke Combs, Kuechly revealed that his roommate Mike Morrissey’s father Jim played with Rivera on the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears team that boasted one of the NFL’s greatest-ever defenses, and things took off from there.
"“There was a natural connection between us all. It was so interesting visiting Carolina as my aunt and uncle came from down there, but I have to be honest I really didn’t like it at first. Before you know it you’ve got the Panthers on the line on draft day. Honestly, I don’t remember anything about the draft experience, just that the Panthers called and I was very excited.”"
Had there not been this sort of connection between Rivera, Morrissey, and Kuechly, then things may have gone in a different direction. The Panthers needed offensive line help at the time with Jordan Gross entering his final season and there were more than a few eyebrows raised when they opted to select a relatively unknown quantity.
This was the right call in no uncertain terms. Kuechly revolutionized the Panthers’ defense from the word go and his status as one of the team’s greatest-ever players is assured.
Rivera deserves a tremendous amount of credit for picking Kuechly. Although it didn’t come with an elusive first Super Bowl and things between the coach and the organization ended on a sour note with his firing in 2019, how he’s responded with the Washington Football Team in the midst of successful cancer treatment answered his critics and then some.
What does Luke Kuechly miss most about pro football?
What does legendary Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly miss most about playing professional football more than one year removed from retirement?
Panthers fans have a lot to thank Jim and Mike Morrissey for, even if they didn’t know it at the time.