College coaches and recruiting services didn't see it, and at first glance, we can understand why one of the NFL's premier defensive players slipped through the cracks during the college recruiting process.
Off the field, Luke Kuechly didn't necessarily look the part of future all-world linebacker.
That's why Kuechly earned the nickname Clark Kent (he also bears a striking resemblance to the fictional character)—because on game day, he turned into Superman for the St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio) Bombers.
Kuechly was a three-star recruit who went unnoticed by Ohio State, Michigan and other big-time programs in the Midwest. He ultimately committed to Boston College, where he had one of the most productive careers in recent memory for a college linebacker.
(Here's how Kuechly trains today.)
In high school, Kuechly possessed the speed and athleticism to become an impact player at the next level. According to his St. Xavier defensive coordinator, Dan MacDonald, what made him special was his football IQ and instincts. MacDonald says, "He was so intelligent, he could tell you what the other team was going to run before the ball was snapped, just based on film study, preparation with scouting reports and formation recognition."
Film study has become a hallmark of the St. Xavier football program, but it extends far beyond reviewing game tape. Film study is a daily practice that starts during summer sessions.
At St. Xavier, summer practice starts in the classrooms, where position groups meet with their coaches and review tape from the previous day's on-field session.
The mission for head coach Steve Specht and his staff is to install the playbook and teach the concepts in the classroom to maximize time spent on the field. For Specht, the film review is his go-to teaching tool. He says, "We get better by doing, reviewing, making corrections and then doing it again. The only way you can make corrections is if the kids see it on film."
The concept of reviewing practice film puts a whole new meaning to the phrase "practice like you play." It molded Kuechly into the player he is today.
See how other elite high school football teams prepare for Friday Night at Preparation Nation.
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