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Luke Kuechly is ‘so pumped up’ and ready for the challenge in Carolina

04.27.12 at 1:11 pm ET
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Luke Kuechly (40) is charging into the NFL as a first-round pick with the Panthers. (AP)

Luke Kuechly is ready to prove his skeptics wrong. At 6-foot-3 but only 237 pounds, there are those who doubt he can handle the rigors of the inside linebacker position in the NFL. He’ll get pushed around and not be fast enough, they fear.

Fear, though, is not in Kuechly’s vocabulary. Excitement and anticipation are.

“I’m so pumped up that they were interested in me and wanted me on their team,” Kuechly said in a conference call from his Cincinnati home with friends and family Thursday night after the Panthers chose him ninth overall in the 2012 NFL draft. “It’s an honor, and now I’ve got to get down there and do what I can to contribute to the team. I’m just excited right now for the opportunity.”

So why, if he was undersized and just a step slow, was he taken as the ninth overall pick?

Simple. He’s one of the smartest and most instinctive linebackers to come out in the draft in the last several years. He can also play all over the field.

He moved from inside to outside when Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. In three years at Boston College, he became a two-time first-team All-America linebacker.

“They told me to be ready to pick it up and be ready to play all three positions,” he said. “I’ve got to pick up the playbook quick and just be versatile and ready to go.

“I just love playing football. It’s been my top priority since I started playing. I love playing football, love the mental aspects of the game and preparing for the game. It’s something I enjoy doing.”

That certainly showed at Boston College, where he registered 532 tackles, including 299 solo tackles, in 38 career games in three seasons (2009-11) at Boston College. He is the NCAA career-record holder in tackles per game (14.0) and solo tackles per game (7.87).

Kuechly earned the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Butkus Award, the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Lott Impact Trophy after leading all collegiate football players in tackles (191) and solo tackles (102) – for the second straight season – last fall.

“The process is about getting a job in the NFL,’’ he said Thursday night. “Everybody has to do it. It’s a business where you have to go out and perform and make plays and be productive. That’s how it works.’’

Kuechly is the 19th Eagle to have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Boston College NFL first-round draft picks:

YEAR NAME POS. TEAM RD. PICK
2012 Luke Kuechly LB Panthers 1 9
2011 Anthony Castonzo OT Colts 1 22
2009 B.J. Raji DT Packers 1 9
2008 Matt Ryan QB Falcons 1 3
2008 Gosder Cherilus OT Lions 1 17
2006 Mathias Kiwanuka DE Giants 1 32
2002 William Green RB Browns 1 16
2002 Marc Colombo OT Bears 1 29
2000 Chris Hovan DT Vikings 1 25
1999 Damien Woody C Patriots 1 17
1996 Pete Kendall OT Seahawks 1 21
1995 Mike Mamula LB Eagles 1 7
1989 Joe Wolf G Cardinals 1 17
1987 John Bosa DE Dolphins 1 16
1977 Steve Shindler G Broncos 1 18
1972 Bill Thomas RB Cowboys 1 26
1967 Bob Hyland G Packers 1 9
1959 Don Allard QB Redskins 1 4
1943 Mike Holovak FB Rams 1 5

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