CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- What happens when a Hall of Fame college basketball coach whose last name begins with K interviews a future Hall of Fame NFL linebacker whose last name begins with the same letter?
Naturally, they ask about each other’s health.
Krzyzewski opened the interview by asking Kuechly how he’s “feeling" after missing the final six games of the 2016 season, the first three of that while in the concussion protocol.
“I’m doing good now," Kuechly said. “I got cleared a little bit during the season. They gave me the thumbs up, so I’ll be good to go next year."
Kuechly ended the interview by telling Krzyzewski, who was preparing for a Thursday night showdown with rival North Carolina, “I hope you’re feeling better, too."
Krzyzewski recently took a leave of absence to have lower back surgery.
In between well wishes, there were several interesting moments between the cerebral linebacker and the Hall of Fame coach. Here are a few highlights:
After telling Kuechly he’ll go down as one of the all-time great NFL linebackers, Krzyzewski asked Kuechly if he grew up playing linebacker.
Kuechly: (He begins by saying he played linebacker as a freshman at Xavier High in Cincinnati, tight end as a sophomore, linebacker as a junior and safety as a senior.)
“I was always kind of in the box area. I was always around the football. The last year I played safety, and that probably was the best spot 'cause I never got blocked and I could kind of just run around and get to the football without worrying about offensive linemen getting to me.:
Krzyzewski: "Do you like tackling?"
Kuechly: “I always would rather hit somebody rather than get hit. That’s why when I played tight end I didn’t like it because you don’t always know where guys are coming from. But as a linebacker I felt like I always knew where guys were coming to hit me, because they’re always running right in front of me. So that was a little bit of comfort for me, knowing I knew where guys were.”
Krzyzewski: "How did we let you not come to Duke [over Boston College]? Didn’t you have an official visit here?"
Kuechly: “I had a great experience there. Coach [David] Cutcliffe was awesome. Duke was right up there. I don’t know what it was about Boston College. ... We had a couple of guys I played with at St. Xavier, my high school, that went to BC and that’s probably where the comfort came in. When I came down it was beautiful, it was awesome. Coach Cutcliffe is the man. It was right up there with BC and I just slid over to BC. But Cutcliffe was awesome and he’s doing a great job.”
Krzyzewski: "I’m glad we got you in Carolina [with the Panthers]. You’ve become an amazing fan favorite. When I told my staff you were going to be on the show, two of the girls said, 'He’s my son’s favorite.'"
Kuechly: “Uh, oh.”
Krzyzewski: "A year ago, you had an amazing season and went to the Super Bowl. What is it like for a player in preparation for Super Bowl?"
Kuechly: “I think the thing that’s cool about the Super Bowl is that you get an extra week to prepare, so you can really jump in the different aspects of watching tape that you normally wouldn’t with just the one week preparation time. So for me last year that was really an interesting thing for me and it was something that I really enjoyed because I could go through my normal routine and then I could really concentrate on certain aspects of the game that I felt were important.
“And once the game kind of gets rolling, you get into your normal game routine and the vibe is the same, but in the back of your mind you know that this is a Super Bowl; this is for all the marbles, and this is something I wanted to do my whole life. And it was a special experience and I hope we can get back there and play again because it was just so cool.”
Krzyzewski: "Watching how this year’s Super Bowl turned [between Atlanta and New England], was it shocking?"
Kuechly: “The thing that shocked me the most was that Atlanta was kind of getting stalled on offense, because they’re so good and so dynamic on offense that a lot of credit goes to New England for their defense.
“But when New England was coming back I was just thinking all Atlanta needs to do is kick a field goal. ... To see the tide flip just shows you how delicate the game is and you’ve got to play to the end.”
Krzyzewski: "What about facing [Atlanta wide receiver] Julio Jones?"
Kuechly: “If you were to build a wide receiver to make him perfect, that’s what Julio Jones would look like.”
Krzyzewski invites Kuechly to come see a Duke basketball game, then says, “Just when you come to a game don’t hit me.”
Kuechly: “Gotcha. I’ll stay away from you.”