Luke Kuechly, taken with the #9 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Luke Kuechly, Defensive Rookie of the Year of the 2012 season. Luke Kuechly, the 22-year-old heart of the Carolina Panthers’ terrifying defense. Luke Kuechly, the kind of guy who inspires phrases like superstar and lieutenant, who inspires his coach to imitate him in front of a reporter.
And he’s nice to his fans!
All of this is great. Kuechly seems like a super-smart, super-focused, super-hot, crazy-talented football player, who’s keeping his actual level of crazy as low as possible (because it’s understood that middle linebackers are by nature insane).
I might hate him.
Let me backtrack. When I graduated from high school, I was eager to get the hell out of Oregon (no offense, Oregon, I love you!) and as a smart, studious, focused young woman, I chose a college based on its academics and its alignment with my priorities in life. It was a woman’s college in southwest Virginia, and I loved it, every minute. The friends I made, what I learned, what I accomplished–I treasure those years. I put myself on the path to where I am now: a very Gemini-type life in San Diego, writing and teaching and riding horses, mere inches away from the answer I would have given you ten years ago if you asked me what my dreams looked like.
Luke Kuechly makes me regret all of it.
I look at him, his curly brown hair, those arms, I watch him play football, I listen to his articulate, thoughtful interviews, and all I’m thinking is, what the fuck choices did I make with my life, that I didn’t get a chance to fall in love with a linebacker? Or a safety? Or a wide receiver?
A football player, is what I’m saying. I would have been an exceptional girlfriend / wife of a professional athlete. I’m an amazing fan–just ask anyone I’ve ever known who’s participated in a sporting event. I’m smart about the game, and I make friends with strangers easily, and I could do the work I do anywhere in the country. I EVEN like training camps. I could have gone to Boston College, or the U of O, or Michigan goddammit, and then that could be my life. Kuechly! Carolina! I was born for this!
What dreams are made of.
Of course, looking back on it, even the coed colleges I applied to didn’t field football teams. And at 18 and 19 years old, the sport I love now was barely on my radar, aside from the obligatory, pre-Uncle-Phil Ducks games I attended with my parents. (O the Joey Harrington years.) Should I be pissed off at my younger self? If I had gone to the U of O, would I have been the kind of girl who dated football players? And how would I have met them? (Clearly by tutoring them in English, let’s get real here, that’s the easy part.)
I think young me did a pretty good job, all things considered. It’s like the great poet Robert Frost once said: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one that actually mattered to me, and there’s no point regretting it now, I probably wouldn’t have given up on my dreams for somebody else’s anyways.” Or something to that effect. So instead of wallowing in what-couldn’t-have-beens, I’m going to use Sundays to appreciate what I have. While also appreciating Luke Kuechly as he owns the backfield.
If there’s some other pro athlete out there making you re-evaluate your life choices, post it in the comments for sympathy and commiseration. And may you decide that you too could not have changed who you were, and that you like who you ended up being.
[And no, thank you, I don't want to talk about the age gap between Kuechly and myself--he's an idealized version of possibility, after all, so shut up about it.]
We’ll always have Sundays.