(CNN) — Luke Kuechly, a star linebacker for the Carolina Panthers who has suffered a series of head injuries in recent years, announced his retirement from pro football in a video statement Tuesday.
“For me, now is the right opportunity to move in a different direction,” Kuechly, a five-time, first-team All-Pro, said. “There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid is to play fast and to play physical and to play strong, and at this point I don’t know that anymore.”
Fighting back tears, Kuechly said, “And that’s the part that the most difficult is I still want to play, but I don’t think it’s the right decision.”
Kuechly, just 28 years old, played eight seasons for the Panthers after a collegiate career at Boston College. In his NFL career, Kuechly was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, the Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, and the 2017 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award winner.
But he has also repeatedly made the injury report with head injuries in recent years.
In 2016, Kuechly suffered a concussion in a nationally televised game that left him crying and gasping for air. It was the second concussion he’d had in two years, according to an article in Sports Illustrated the next season, titled: “Luke Kuechly Is the Poster Child for the NFL’s Concussion Problem.”