The NFL Players Association has a fund for its players to go back to school to finish their degree. Zola and Gallup made sure that Kuechly tapped into that department upon his return to BC:
“Many unions have dollars allocated for their members to finish up their college degrees,” Zola said. “So I made sure that the NFLPA knew of Luke’s interest in returning, and I made sure Luke was aware that these funds were available. We worked really hard to maximize the number of dollars that he could get towards his education. Part of collective bargaining, part of the union standing up for its members in all of these lockouts, is to be able to advocate on behalf of their members. Part of what they were able to get from the NFL in the last lockout was millions of dollars targeted towards education. It seems crazy for Luke not to tap into those funds. So we made sure that was there for him and it worked out. I’m sure the average student is like, ‘Well, why the hell does Luke need money?’ Well these are dollars that they worked for. These are benefits that are given. For him not to avail himself of that is crazy.”
“[The NFLPA] was thrilled when they found out Luke was coming back to school,” Gallup said. “They said not many players take advantage of it. And that’s what happens—guys say when they leave early that they’re going to finish their degree. But they either get too involved with their team or they get married and have kids and just can’t spend the time. So [the NFLPA] was thrilled, as we were. I do think it’s a great story—here’s this first-round draft pick who left school early and is back to finish his degree.”
Zola addressed the danger in not coming back to school as soon as one can, and why he encouraged Kuechly to return for this semester:
“If you don’t come back right away, I think it gets that much harder each day you’re away,” Zola said. “He’s back this semester and he’s got his classmates with him. Those are the same kids that he played on the football field with, and his senior class is still here. That makes it a little bit easier. He’s still Luke Kuechly, NFL star, but in two or three years, he comes back and he doesn’t know anyone on campus, he’s this Pro-Bowl player—it’s going to make life a lot harder for him.
Kuechly’s return to finish his degree has not gone unnoticed by current BC football players:
“For our players, it shows unbelievable perspective on how important the education part of it is,” Gallup said. “I’ve had several kids comment that they’re really impressed that Luke’s back to finish his degree. Sometimes you don’t realize when you’re playing how important [your education] is. We tell them, their parents tell them, everyone tells them. Some of the kids are [highly motivated in the classroom], but some have tunnel vision of ‘I’m going to go to the NFL’ and they do what they can do, maybe not as well as they should. There’s no greater example than Luke, that he’s back.”
Lastly, Gallup provided some great stories from his interactions with Kuechly over the past few months, which focused on how the linebacker has remained humble despite his NFL season:
No Car, No Problem
“He didn’t bring his car up with him. I said to him, ‘Well where are you going to park your car?’ He said, ‘Oh, I don’t need a car up here. I’m taking the bus, I’m taking a subway if I need it.’ I’m just shaking my head.”
“We played Wake Forest this fall, and I called him Thursday night and said ‘Luke, it would be great if you came by and surprised the guys.’ He said, ‘Oh great, where are you guys?’ He knew we were at Wake Forest, but I said, ‘We’re up in Greensboro.’ He said, ‘Where’s Greensboro?’ He’s in Charlotte, and I said, ‘Luke, it’s an hour and a half from where you are, it’s right on 85, just put it in your GPS, you’ll be there in 90 minutes.’ He said, ‘Oh, great, cool.’ And he made it right up there and we had a team meeting and dinner and then he just sat around talking with the guys. A lot of the young kids had their eyeballs looking at Luke. But he was the same way. He was just so excited to be around the table with those guys.”
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