STACK followed dozens of the NFL’s top prospects as they hit the gym to get ready for the NFL Combine and beyond. In our Path to the Pros video series, we show you how these world-class athletes trained for the next level. With the 2012 NFL Draft less than a week away, today we highlight top-rated linebacker and tackling machine Luke Kuechly.
Philadelphia fans can breathe a sigh of relief, because it’s unlikely the Eagles will be landing Kuechly in the Draft. Kuechly-to-the-Eagles has been a popular prediction among Draft experts, but the Philly faithful have balked at the thought of using the 15th overall pick to select Kuechly, a Boston College product and winner of the 2011 Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
It now appears that Kuechly will be off the board by the time the Eagles get on the clock. Multiple sources are reporting that Kuechly will be among the top 10 picks in next week’s Draft.
For Philly fans, the thought of selecting Kuechly has provoked comparisons to Mike Mamula, the original “Workout Warrior” of the NFL Combine, whom the Eagles selected with their first-round pick in the 1995 NFL Draft.
Mamula, also a former BC 'backer, pioneered the way prospects prepare for the Combine. In the weeks leading up to the event, he practiced the tests hundreds of times, then outperformed everyone across the board. His Draft stock soared exponentially as a result of his impressive Combine showing.
The Eagles traded their 12th overall selection, along with a package of mid- and late-round picks, to move up five spots and select Mamula seventh overall. What followed were six dismal seasons in Philadelphia from Mamula, who is now regarded as one of the most notable Draft busts of the last 20 years.
But beyond playing linebacker at BC, the similarities between Mamula and Kuechly are marginal at best. Above all, there is no questioning Kuechly’s productivity in college. At BC, he started 37 of 38 career games, compiling a streak of 33 games in a row with double-digit tackles. At 6’3” and 242 pounds, he possesses elite instincts, diagnosing plays with the savvy of a top NFL inside linebacker.
For his Combine prep at the IMG Madden Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Kuechly focused on enhancing his overall athleticism to become a more complete linebacker at the next level. He says, “Flexibility work is key to staying healthy, and it’s something I’ve progressed on since I’ve been training [at IMG]. Now, it’s getting into football shape and more position-specific shape … doing more volume and increasing reps to build endurance.”
Kuechly posted Mamula-like Combine numbers, ranking near the top among linebackers in every event. His 4.58 40-Yard Dash surprised scouts who had questioned his top-end speed.
The most accomplished LB prospect in recent years may not be moving to Philadelphia. However, if his top-10 projection holds true, and if the Washington Redskins remain the only NFC East team owning a top 10 pick, then Eagles fans can find solace in the fact that Kuechly will probably not be playing for a division rival. Not that facing Robert Griffin III twice a year for the foreseeable future is any consolation prize.