CHARLOTTE — On Auburn’s campus, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton can’t receive a “singing Valentine” – complete with carnation – without it showing up on YouTube.
On Boston College’s campus, about 1,200 miles northeast of Auburn, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly says it’s easy to blend in around the snow, Gothic architecture and his fellow students.
Which is just how Kuechly likes it.
While Newton’s every move since returning to campus this semester seems to be captured on film – from his appearance at an Auburn basketball game to his participation in an intramural hoops game – Kuechly has maintained a low profile since getting back to work on his marketing degree last month.
He lives with a former teammate in a dorm, works out in the football weight room and attended BC’s near upset of Duke last weekend.
It’s almost like he never left.
“It’s great. I’m right on campus. Everything’s real close. I can get everywhere easily,” Kuechly said during a phone interview this week. “We have a kitchen in the dorm to cook food. So it’s working out.”
The Panthers’ selection of Kuechly in the first round last year is likewise working out. The Cincinnati native, who left BC after his junior season to enter the draft, was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year after becoming the first rookie to lead the league in tackles since San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis in 2007.
The day after winning the Rookie of the Year award in New Orleans, Kuechly was on a flight back to Boston. He had a ticket to the Super Bowl that evening, but he also had a marketing class Monday.
He watched the game on TV with some of his BC buddies.
Kuechly said he returned to campus to honor a promise he made to his parents, Tom and Eileen, who wanted him to finish his degree.
“I knew it was important. I knew it’s good to finish. But they really wanted me to come back,” Kuechly said. “I thought this would be a good opportunity to do it. All my friends are still around school. It’s still relatively fresh in my mind. I just thought I’d go back this first offseason and knock out as much as I could.”
Kuechly moved in with Paul Maglio, a senior running back for the Eagles last season. Kuechly, who signed a four-year, $12.6 million guaranteed contract after he was picked ninth overall, said he doesn’t mind dorm life.
“I’ve got a bed and everything,” Kuechly said. “I packed a couple bags with some clothes and books and school stuff, and came on up.”
Kuechly is taking five classes – marketing research, applied marketing, operations management, social media and an independent study course. He’s planning on spending a few days in Florida during spring break and will wrap up his studies in time to participate in the Panthers’ offseason program in April.
Unlike Newton, Kuechly said most days he can walk to class without being noticed – or photographed.
“BC’s not too bad about that,” Kuechly said. “Cam’s a way bigger name and a more recognizable person. It hasn’t been too bad for me so far.”
Kuechly, who broke James Anderson’s team record for tackles in a season, wants to improve his pass coverage next season. Kuechly said teams occasionally took advantage of his aggressiveness with play-action passes.
“I think I did get caught up in the play-action a couple times,” he said. “I think if you can study a team more and understand what they’re trying to do, you can be more ready for something like that to happen.”
The studying – the classroom kind, anyway – already has begun.