Luke Kuechly has taken the NFL and Panthers fans by storm since being selected with the team's first round pick in 2012. Linebacker was once seen as a luxury the team couldn't afford in the draft, but Kuechly rapid rise to become of the the league's best defensive players has proved that was a wise pick. Ahead of the release of Madden 15 we had a chance to sit down with the defensive captain and ask him a few questions fans have been interested in for a while now.
Your ascendancy into the NFL happened very quickly, winning rookie of the year in your first year and then of course defensive player of the year in 2013. To what do you attribute having such an easy transition from college into the pros?
Really it was about having good people around me. My first year my locker was next to Jordan Senn, who's now in Chicago. He was one of those guys who really taught me a lot. He always took care of his body, taught me about the league -- a true professional who walked me though the NFL. Jon Beason and Thomas Davis were instrumental also. They taught me how coaches see things and how players see things. Like with Beason, the coaches taught me to play Cover Two and then he came in and showed me how he plays cover two.
It's safe to say you're a leader on this team now. You were a captain last year and you're a leader on defense, so in that spirit do you pay attention to the draft? Are you watching who the team is taking and thinking about how they fit and whether you get help.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't. I enjoy watching the draft. The thing is I'm a football fan, so I love seeing where players I appreciate go or guys I've played against. This year I was really interested to see where Johnny Manziel went and Sammy Watkins, those are two guys I watch a lot. We got a big wide receiver this year and some more defensive line help, so that makes me happy.
In that vein of watching and being a leader, obviously there was a lot of turnover from last year -- particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The new Madden trailer features highlights the loss to San Francisco in the playoffs. What do you need to do to get back there and can you do it?
Consistency, that's the biggest thing. All the linebackers are back, our defensive line is back. That's huge. We lost a few guys, but bringing in players like Roman Harper, Antoine Cason and Thomas DeCoud -- these are accomplished veterans who know what they're doing. Now it's just about getting the terminology down and that starts now.
A few weeks ago you were in the SB Nation studios with Matt Ufford and talked about Skyline Chili in Cincinnati, now we're not here to talk about Cincy food so tell me about some things you've found in Carolina that you didn't know about before.
Now that I'm down here there are really two places: Mac's BBQ and Thai Taste. Those are two places I go to a lot, but when I'm back in Cincinnati I always need my Skyline (laughs).
I don't know if you've seen Cam's hype video, but he's lobbying pretty hard to be on the cover of Madden this year. Now he's challenging Richard Sherman to a game. Have you ever played against Cam?
No, I haven't played against Cam. He's a good dude, always looking to have fun. Cam's always challenging people to games and I know he's good, so I don't want to take him on.
Each week you watch a lot of film, but what exactly are you looking for? Are you watching opposing running backs to see what they do or more paying attention to offensive alignments?
It's about finding tendencies. Every team in the league does one or two things regularly and it's about finding those things. Like Tony Gonzalez might run a specific route on third down most of the time. It's about finding those things and preparing for them.
We know all about you on the football field but what about off it? When you're not having to study film or work out, what do you like doing?
Fishing, that's a big thing. I really like fly fishing and I've been doing it ever since I was little. Now that I'm down here I've tried to pick up golf, but I'm not very good at it. I love being outdoors, so whether it's fishing or camping that's what I like to do.
I'm not sure if you saw but about a week ago Pro Football Focus put out an article that called you one of the league's most overrated players. Their argument was that you weren't the best defensive player on the Panthers or even the best linebacker. How do you react to that? Do you just ignore it or does it bother you?
Everyone's entitled to their own opinions. For me it's all about whether what I'm doing helps the team. Some people say you aren't doing your job if you don't have certain stats, but you ignore that. It's all about whether you're helping your team win.
Alright Luke, we've got four rapid-fire questions for you. Only need one-word answers. Ready?
Coke or Pepsi?
Cats or Dogs?
Cake or Pie?
Pirates or Ninjas?
Thanks to Luke Kuechly and EA Sports for helping arrange this interview with one of the Panthers brightest stars. This year's edition of Madden looks to be amazing and we hope you enjoy this brand new trailer featuring the man of the hour himself.