Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly spoke at UNC Charlotte March 23 as part of the Forty-Niner Forum Speaker Series, UNC Charlotte’s Center for Leadership Development sponsored the Konversations with Kuechly” event.
According to the sponsors, roughly 600 students gathered in McKnight Hall for the event, and of those in attendance, one student was chosen to interview Kuechly at the event.
Senior psychology major Meaggan Cochran was the winner and came prepared with questions covering several different topics.
The two talked about topics ranging from football, Cookout, North Carolina and UGG boots to Kuechly’s upcoming 24th birthday.
Once Cochran’s interview with the star was completed, the audience had a chance to offer Kuechly their questions. Though most questions were as simple as “Can I take a selfie with you?” one student’s question asked a bit more of the linebacker. A female student involved in UNC Charlotte’s Greek life asked Kuechly if he would attend an upcoming formal event with her. Though he politely declined, he did settle for a selfie with the student.
Cochran: What makes you a great leader, and what qualities do you think a great leader possesses?
Kuechly: Coming in, I was the youngest guy on the team. My mentality was to work hard, keep my mouth shut and play as hard as I could. Fortunately for me, I’ve got Thomas Davis. Thomas leads in the best way possible – he’s a vocal guy, he leads by example, he works hard, he shows up every day. When I got there, I thought, ‘I wanna be like Thomas.’ So I believe in working as hard as you can and being true to yourself.
You’ve been in the North Carolina area for about five years now. We’ve got this restaurant called Cookout, and the top question for me personally was what you get in your Cookout tray. I was very disappointed to find out that you have not had food from Cookout. But you have had a Cookout milkshake?
So, we have this place in Cincinnati. It’s a gas station and it has an ice cream bar in the little shop. They have the best milkshakes. So when I got down here, I had to find a place that had milkshakes. I was going around asking a bunch of guys where can I get a milkshake. I went to a couple different places and they weren’t really what I wanted. So I went to Cookout and I got a strawberry milkshake. It’s different, but it’s a good different.
Can you talk a little bit about your training and some of the greatest inspirations and what keeps you motivated?
I try to watch other guys, but at the same time you’ve got to watch yourself. During the season, I watch tape of other teams. You got to take a look at the season and see what you did well at and what you didn’t do so well at. The areas you didn’t do so well at, you need to put a lot of energy into. Watch yourself, watch others then try to put it all into action out on the field.
So you talk about watching yourself and how there’s always room for improvement. If you could go back and tell your younger self any piece of advice, what would it be?
Just enjoy the moment. Coach Ron Rivera always talks about ‘Be where your feet are.’ If you start to really think about that, what does it really mean? Where your feet are, that’s where your brain should be. You shouldn’t be thinking ‘Well I’m here, but I’m thinking about what I’m gonna do when I get home?’ Maybe you guys have a test you’ve got to take or your parents are coming in, but just be where you are right now. That helps when you’re in meetings, that helps when you’re in practice and it really just helps you focus on what’s most important.
What is your favorite memory you’ve experienced with the Carolina Panthers?
The couple of games that are highlighted for me are when we played in 2013 against the Saints at home. That was the rain game when there was a torrential downpour. They had just smacked us two weeks earlier at the dome. We needed to win that game to be first in the division and go to the playoffs. We were playing well, we were playing tough, and then the rain came down and the crowds just erupted. That’s one of my favorite things about playing in Carolina, is that our fans are great. You guys are awesome. You guys really impact the game, especially on defense. It gives everyone energy. There’s nothing like playing in Carolina. We all love it – you can ask any of the guys on the team. This year was special because of you guys and we hope to do it again next year.
What hobbies do you have outside of football?
I have two brothers and since I was a little kid, my dad would take us either fishing or hunting. I tend to fish more now than hunt. Fishing is fun. It’s quiet usually and you’re with your buddies. I just enjoy being outside. When I was a kid, we would always go fishing and on the way home we would always stop and get ice cream. I think it started as a ploy for my dad to try to get us to go. So I like to fish, I like to hunt and I like to play golf. I’m not very good at it though. I really like the White Water Center, too – that’s my new favorite spot.
So tell me about your brothers. What do you admire most about John and Henry?
So John is my older brother; he’s 26 and Henry is my younger brother; he’s 17 and he’s a senior in high school. I’m right in the middle. I think the dynamic with my brothers is very different. I think John is the most even keeled; he’s a caring guy. I think the shirt off his back is kind of his mentality. He’s always been there for my brother and I and he’s very selfless. Henry is my younger brother and he’s very similar to me; he’s a basketball guy ad he’s very competitive. We go at it quite a bit competitively, but John is there to keep it all under wraps. It’s a fun dynamic – I enjoy having two brothers.
So you have a birthday coming up in less than a month. What are your plans to celebrate your 25th birthday?
That’s a good question, it’s coming up. I guess I’ve got to go to Cookout and I’ve got to go to the White Water Center. I guess I can rent a car now too.
What kind of car would you rent?
Well since it’s my birthday I’d have to rent a big van so I can take all my buddies with me and we’d all go to the drive through at Cookout.
I like to sing, and I like music. So I really want to know what is in your pre-game playlist?
So Greg Olsen is a Kings of Leon fan. He listens to that a lot around me, so that’s kind of sprinkled its way in. Also Taylor Swift kind of snuck in as well. Greg and his daughter both listen to a lot of Taylor Swift and somehow it kind of crept its way in. Usually it’s just Pandora.
What career path would you have chosen if you didn’t play football?
If I could pick whatever I want to do, I would probably move down to Key West, I would get a fishing boat and I would be a charter fisherman. People would call me up and I’d take them out to go fishing. I think that’d be awesome. You could just be out on the water all day in beautiful weather, catching some fish – it’d be very enjoyable.
Who is your biggest fan?
What is your favorite thing to wear?
So a couple of years ago, Cam Newton got an endorsement deal with UGGs. So it was around Christmas time and we were all walking in, and on our chairs were these big brown boxes. So I’m walking up to my chair and I look and it says UGGs on it. I’m like, ‘I can’t wear these.’ So I put them in my locker and waited until after practice. Everyone had gone home and I was still there watching some tape and so I looked around the locker room and opened the box and put them on. I kind of looked at my foot and decided that they were pretty comfortable. From then on out whenever it’s cold out, I put them on. Those are my favorite thing to wear now when it’s cold outside.