Ranking the 8 most influential Carolina Panthers in franchise history

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Smith
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Smith /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports) Luke Kuechly /

. LB. Carolina Panthers. LUKE KUECHLY. 5. player. 87

Luke Kuechly – Former Carolina Panthers LB

A few eyebrows were raised when the Carolina Panthers selected Luke Kuechly at No. 9 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. But it’s hard to look at what happened next and suggest it was the wrong call to make.

Kuechly was an absolute sensation. A cerebral assassin that enjoyed one of the finest starts to an NFL career in league history – winning both NFL Rookie and Defensive Player of the Year over his first two campaigns.

He was the conductor of a defense that conquered all in the 2010s. Kuechly’s partnership with Thomas Davis was exceptional and a supreme level of consistency was also recognized by his peers as he earned five All-Pro selections in eight seasons before retiring due to health concerns.

There is no doubt that Kuechly had so much more to give. But considering how knowledgeable he is about the game, it would be a surprise if a television or coaching gig was not presented if the right opportunity comes along.

Kuechly will always be beloved in the Carolinas. And the Panthers have found life extremely difficult finding a suitable successor over the last two seasons.

Players like Kuechly don’t come along every day. A ruthless individual who led by example and captured the hearts of fans along the way.