Luke Kuechly leaves.
Carolina Panthers' linebacker, one of the best defensive players since its lineup in 2012, announced on Tuesday that it would hang up its pads.
The 28-year-old Küchly explained his astonishing decision with a video on Twitter in which he threw back tears.
"I think now is the right chance for me to continue," he said. "It makes me sad because I love this game, I've played it since I was a child. It's my favorite thing in the world. The memories that I have of this place and this organization and that I share with these guys am in the field – they will never go away.
"In my heart I know it's the right thing … There's only one way to play this game since I was a little kid – play fast, play physically and play hard. And at this point I still remember not if I can still do it. "
Kuechly did not go into a particular illness that prompted him to call it a termination.
During his seven-year career, he gained a lot of recognition, made the Pro Bowl and was voted All-Pro every season. Following the 2012 Rookie of the Year, he was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and helped the Panthers to three direct NFC South titles (2013-15). He retires with 1,092 tackles and 18 interceptions – both numbers have been leading the LBs since he joined the NFL.
Despite his shortened career, his influence on the Carolina franchise will be permanent.
"I wish we could have him for many more years, but he did everything right and we respect the decision he made," said Panthers owner David Tepper. "Luke is a player that only exists once in a generation. We want every member of this organization to imitate him."