As you all know, Peter King recently published an article where he discussed the maturation of Cam Newton. After spending time interviewing Luke Kuechly on the record one on one, King decided to write about an off the record discussion centered on Cam Newton.
It recently occurred to me that Peter King completely missed the opportunity to discuss an actual maturation example in a player. That player is Luke Kuechly.
What? Luke Kuechly has matured? Hasn't he always been a mature player? Well, yes and no.
For some players maturation means developing into a quality starter. For others, it means developing into a team leader.
In 2012, Luke Kuechly came into the league as "pro ready" as any college player could be. Still, he was a rookie, and rookies need mentors. Former Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason was that mentor for Luke. Beason, who missed most of the season due to injury, took the time to mentor his eventual replacement. In fact, Panthers fans should thank Beason for not only his play on the field, but also the accelerated development of Kuechly. During Luke's rookie season, Beason predicted to me that Kuechly would be a great player in this league.
Fast forward to 2014, the student is now the teacher. During the Friday night Bills preseason game, Luke was coaching up his crew on the sidelines well into the 4th quarter.
Kuechly has developed his own unique leadership style, different from Jon Beason's but just as effective.
Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn recently described it.
"Fantastic. Quiet most of the time, but when it comes time to talk his words are powerful because he talks so little" Blackburn remarked. "He leads with his play. How he practices, how he prepares, and how he plays the game."
Kuechly has become the leader that every franchise in the league would love to have. Quiet but powerful, leading by example. These are the leaders that make every player around them better.
Now that is an actual maturation of a player worthy of discussion.