Luke Kuechly would someday make a perfect Patriot
|10.30.10 at 4:58 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — As you sit, listen and watch 19-year-old Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly answer questions, you think what a bright, tactful, prepared and gifted football player.
Then you think of the New England Patriots.
Bill Belichick has made a Hall of Fame career out of developing such players into cogs of the machine that has become the Patriots franchise.
Players that fly to the ball. Players that know their position on the field at all times and always seem to make the right play at the right time for the right reason. Like when he stopped Clemson’s Dwayne Allen a full yard short on 4th and 1, with BC clinging to a 16-10 lead with 5:17 left in the fourth.
“I knew they were going to try and isolate me,” Kuechly said. “They’ve run that play probably about three or four times on me and they got me once on it, I think in the first half. I kind of was expecting it again. I think what actually happened is he actually ran his route a little short because he didn’t get there and he was open and everything. I tried to bang him a little bit but he made the catch and I was looking over and I thought he ran his route past the first down [marker]. Man, I need to make a better play. But he ran his route a little short and helped me out a little bit.”
Sounds a lot like what Belichick talked about two weeks ago when he described how Devin McCourty impressed him in film study as a mere rookie, and what impressed him so much about Ray Lewis coming out of the University of Miami.
That’s a prototypical Belichick Patriot.
That also describes Kuechly, one of the leading tacklers in what was formerly known as Division I NCAA football. He has 111 tackles in eight games. He extended to 17 games the longest streak in the nation for a player with at least 10 tackles. With players like Alex Albright, Wes Davis and DeLeon Gauze lost to the defense on Saturday, and Mark Herzlich spending the season re-establishing his legs and strength, it’s Kuechly who has astonishingly become the leader of this Eagles D.
Consider: He picked off a pass on the near sideline with 1:42 left at the BC 45 and he knocked down a “Hail Mary” attempt by Clemson’s Kyle Parker as time expired on the opposite end of the field at the BC 5. Talk about a linebacker being all over the place.
Yes, he’s only 19. And yes, he’s only a sophomore at BC. But when you listen to star product of football power St. Xavier High (Cincinnati) describe what he sees on the field and then watch him play, you can’t help but feel this kid will be playing on Sunday in three years.
Those paying attention know how much Belichick values getting off the field on third down and how much he has stressed that this year to his young defense.
Maybe he’d like Kuechly to come in and speak to them. The kid offered this up following Saturday’s 16-10 win over Clemson, ending a five-game losing streak.
“We did a good job stopping the run the whole game,” Kuechly said. “I think one of the biggest things we were able to do in this game was get off the field on the third down. That’s something we haven’t been doing very well this whole year. When you get off the field on third down, results show and we did a good job in the second half, and the first half, of doing that.”
Right out of the Belichick handbook.
No doubt, Nick Caserio, Belichick’s personnel chief and on-site eyes at Boston College, sees great potential in No. 40 down the road. He would never publicly admit as much now but certainly, while watching NFL talent of the future on Saturdays at The Heights, Kuechly must be on his radar and those of many, many other NFL scouts.
Naturally, Kuechly wasn’t thinking about three weeks from now, let alone three years, after his teammates finally tasted victory for the first time since Sept. 11.
“I think the biggest thing about today is we came together as a team,” he said. “The offense played great, the defense played great, and the biggest thing was special teams. We had a fumble recovery on a kickoff, Nate [Freese] kicked three field goals and Ryan [Quigley] did a great job punting. We came together not only as a defense but as a team, and that’s what we need to do from here on out.”
While Montel Harris believes the team can run the table and salvage a bowl game out of the season, Kuechly played it a whole lot more safe, stealing one more Belichick line.
“Right now, we’re just thinking about Wake Forest. We don’t think about any games down the line. We think about Wake Forest. That’s our next game. That’s the one that matters right now.”