Kuechly has played a monumental role in the Carolina Panthers’ huge defensive improvement over the first two years of his pro career. Since Kuechly took up the reigns of the Panthers defense—middle linebackers are often considered the QB on the other side of the ball – the team has become one of the grittiest, strongest defensive teams in the league. It’s been a marked transformation, and Kuechly’s 100-plus tackles, occasional interceptions, sacks, and other big plays have been a central contributing factor. As if he needed the numbers to prove it, Kuechly came into the league putting up some of the best numbers for his position at the 2012 Combine, including a 4.58-second 40-yard dash, a 38-inch vertical jump, and 27 reps on the 225-pound bench press. Already one of the best defensive players in the game, it’s hard to remember he’s just 22 years old, with his entire career laid out in front of him.