“Hey, how ya doing? How was your weekend?"
This is how Luke Kuechly trash talks.
Earlier this week, Panthers safety Roman Harper was asked to describe linebacker Luke Kuechly.
“He’s probably the nicest guy you’ll ever meet in your life,” Harper said.
Later, when he was asked about Kuechly, linebacker Thomas Davis gave nearly the same answer.
“He is one of the nicest guys, if not the nicest guy, you will ever meet.”
That nice guy led the NFL in tackles again this year, the second time in three seasons he’s done that. That nice guy was the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. And people really like to say good things about him.
"He thinks of others. He puts others before himself, both on the field and on the field," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott says.
Kuechly is a dichotomy of personality: an impossibly nice guy whose job is to be merciless.
“When he is on the field I don’t think there is really that much polite about him. He is a guy that does a great job of turning it on and off," Davis said. "When he is on that field, all the nicknames that the fans have given him—the 'Lukenessmonster' and all the other stuff you hear—that is who he is and that is who we need him to be.”
As he wraps up his third season playing alongside Kuechly, Davis knows how Kuechly turns a switch when he steps on the field. But Harper is new to the complete Kuechly experience.
Before coming to Carolina this offseason, Harper spent eight years with the Saints. A division rival, he didn't like the Panthers, and the feeling was mutual. Then he started sharing a locker room with Kuechly.
"It’s just kind of weird because I didn’t know him until this year, and you look at his last game against the Saints he had like 30-something tackles, he’s all over the place," Harper said, recalling Kuechly’s 24-tackle game against the Saints in Week 16 last year. "He’s yelling, he’s talking trash and then you meet him and he doesn’t even remember any of that. He’s just the nicest guy."
Ok, so we get he's nice, but hold on. Trash talk? What kind of things do you say out there, Luke?
“Hey, how ya doing? How was your weekend? Eat anything good last night?” Kuechly replies with a laugh.
“Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on when [I’m] saying stuff. Everything happens so fast. You’ve got to ask other guys."
"It’s kind of polite. It’s not like that bad. It’s not harsh. He doesn’t try to go after your mom or anything personal," Harper says. "He’s right straight to the point and kind of waves at you on the way back."
"He told a lineman one time, 'You’re going to get a minus on that play.'"
A shot about a bad grade an opponent will get in the meeting room—that's perfectly Kuechly. What else can you reveal about his trash talk, Josh Norman?
"He does it slick, like on the sly," the cornerback says. "He'll talk to you while walking beside you, but looking this way and saying something out the side of his mouth. It’s real funny, man, but it’s all fun and games. It’s all within the lines of the game, and it gets him going."
Often in sports, what you see isn't what you get. And while media and fans rarely get to truly know a guy, Kuechly is as friendly and polite as you see on a growing number of commercials. And then he goes to work.
"It’s just amazing to play beside someone like that to see him go into the zone and when he is in the zone how much of an impact he can really have on the game,” Harper said. “The guy can take over the game from the middle linebacker position. That just doesn’t happen on an every Sunday basis, and we’ve got that guy week to week."
“It really is like the Superman-Clark Kent thing.”