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Dec. 13, 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly won the Bronko Nagurski Award given to the nation's top college defensive player.
Kuechly received the award at a banquet Monday night.
The other finalists were LSU defensive back Morris Claiborne, Alabama defensive back Mark Barron, Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still.
The 6-foot-3, 237-pound Kuechly led the nation in total tackles with 191 and solo tackles with 102 and was the only unanimous selection to the all-ACC first-team defense this season.
He was All-American last year as a sophomore and was a finalist for the Nagurski Award but was beat out by Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers.
In just three seasons, Kuechly became Boston College's all-time leading tackler.
Kuechly joins some elite company in winning the award.
Among the other former Nagurski award winners are Brian Orakpo, Ndamukong Suh, Derrick Johnson, Terrell Suggs, Roy Williams, Dan Morgan, Charles Woodson and Champ Bailey.
"It's an honor," Kuechly said. "If you look at the past winners and their banners hanging up here - Ndamukong Suh and Charles Woodson, guys like that - just to be put with those names is an honor."
Kuechly lists his instinctiveness as his biggest strength.
Against Florida State this season, he had 20 tackles. That's nothing unusual for Kuechly, who has a streak of 33 straight games with at least 10 tackles.
"I try not to think too much and just go out there and have fun," he said. "You go out there and watch tape and you get prepared for the game real well, but once you get out there you have to have fun."
Kuechly said he hasn't decided whether he'll turn pro next year.
"I haven't thought too much about it," Kuechly said. "I haven't thought too much about it because I've been busy with this and I've had exams. So when I get home I'll start to think about it."
Kuechly said he's exceeded his own expectations as a player. "I think I have definitely surprised myself," Kuechly said. "Coming in I didn't know what to expect in college football. But I've had a lot of help getting there. But it's not something I did alone. We've had a great group of guys on the defense and a coaching staff that allowed me to play and have fun." A native of Cincinnati, Kuechly was a two-time All Greater Catholic League selection at St. Xavier, gaining first-team honors in 2008.