Luke Kuechly will enter NFL draft

BOSTON -- The longstanding fears of Boston College football fans have been realized: linebacker Luke Kuechly has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

Kuechly, a two-time All-America selection, announced the decision in a conference call with reporters Friday night. He said it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

"It was a really tough decision," he said. "I think there were two things that were weighing on me both ways. This is something I've always wanted to do, play in the NFL. And then the other part of it was just the friends and people I met at BC.

"I think it's tough to end one thing and start another thing, regardless of what it is."

Kuechly is ranked as the top linebacker and 10th overall on ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board, and he is 13th on Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay's Top 32.

Kuechly is a 6-foot-3, 237-pound linebacker who led the nation in tackles this season with 191 and was honored with the Butkus Award, the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Lombardi Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy.

In his third season in Chestnut Hill, Kuechly broke both the single season tackles record, which he'd set with 183 as a sophomore, and the career tackles record, his 532 surpassing Stephen Boyd's 524. Kuechly's 532 tackles also set a new ACC record.

He had a nation-best 33-game streak of 10 or more tackles snapped in his final game as an Eagle, when he finished with nine against Miami (though he did have a pick-six in the Eagles' win over the Hurricanes).

The Cincinnati native said he consulted with family, coaches and former teammates before making his decision. He talked to former Eagles and current NFL players Mark Herzlich and Alex Albright, among others, to find out what they're going through in the pro ranks now, but his family's words held the most weight.

"I think the biggest thing for me was talking to my family," he said. "I think they had the biggest impact on me."

BC coach Frank Spaziani liked to call his star middle linebacker "the Human Eraser" and "the Boy Wonder" for his prolific tackling abilities. The longtime defensive coach marveled at Kuechly's consistency and unparalleled instincts for finding the ball.

After the Eagles wrapped up a disappointing 4-8 season, failing to qualify for a bowl game for the first time in more than a decade, and draft speculation began to swirl around Kuechly in earnest, Spaziani was asked about his favorite Kuechly moments.

"Oh man, there's so many of those," he said. "He's just a joy. It really is fun to watch."

Kuechly was voted a captain by his peers before his junior season and seemed to genuinely enjoy his time at BC. In fact, in the point-counterpoint he did to make his decision, the relationships he built while in school were one of the biggest marks in BC's favor.

But in the end, he felt it was time to leave.

"It's just a great opportunity to do something that I've wanted to do since I started playing football," he said. "For me, I've always wanted to play in the NFL and it's right there for me, kinda looking me in the face."

Jack McCluskey is a regular contributor to ESPNBoston.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.