Former NFL defensive player of the year, Luke Kuechly, a star linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, 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 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, 28, 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.

"He's been in the middle of it all for the last eight years," the team tweeted. "No one did it better."

According to Spotrac, he had two years left on his contract at more than $10 million per season.

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