By SueAnn Howell Catholic News Service     2/8/2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) — Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers, the team that faced the Denver Broncos in the Feb. 7 Super Bowl, credits his parents and his Catholic faith for making a positive impact on his NFL career and his outlook on life.

“I went to a Catholic grade school, Jesuit high school and a Jesuit college, and I think you just learn certain things growing up in that environment. Really, the biggest thing I learned from it is respect and to treat people correctly,” he said after a Jan. 28 practice.

“Your background has something to do with it, but my parents I think were the biggest impact on that, as far as to be a good person. You know, it’s not that hard, as long as you’re nice to people, everything works out,” he told the Catholic News Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte. “Treat people how you want to be treated. It’s pretty straightforward stuff, and I think it makes things easier.”

Kuechly, a product of St. Xavier High School, a Catholic boys school, near his hometown of Evendale, Ohio, and a graduate of Boston College, is known as a fierce competitor who does not give up, a natural and humble leader, the person everyone calls “the nicest guy on the team.”

When he was in the fourth grade, Kuechly first played organized football with Cincinnati’s Catholic Youth Organization. In high school, he was a two-time All Greater Catholic League selection.

Kuechly, a three-time All America linebacker for Boston College, was the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in the 2012 season, and followed that up by being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press in 2013, joining Lawrence Taylor as the only players in NFL history to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in successive years.

Kuechly said he doesn’t really have a special patron saint or a special prayer he always says before a game.

“We say a couple prayers in the locker room before games, though,” he said.

The team is often seen praying at each game, and players are known as much for their charitable works off the field, especially for children in need.

Charitable works also were getting attention from supporters of both teams headed to the Super Bowl.