Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is making as much of a positive impact off the field as he is on it, and that’s really saying something given that Kuechly is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate on a 12-0 team.

Last week, Kuechly made a dream come true for one of his biggest fans, Jessica Hayes. Jessica has cerebral palsy, autism, and is half blind. And she had one wish for her 21st birthday: “to meet Carolina Panthers player Luke Kuechly and give him one of my famous hugs.”

The superstar Panthers linebacker most certainly came through for Jessica’s birthday wishes:

What she didn’t know was Luke was coming to surprise her.

WBTV’s Molly Grantham met up with Kuechly in uptown Charlotte Friday night and the pair hopped into a limo. Dream on 3 organized the whole event.

“Have you ever done stuff like this?” Grantham asked. “Yes and no,” he answered. “Not as organized as this.”

“I just like to think of myself as a normal guy,” Kuechly said. “But if I can go down there and make her happy for her birthday, makes it fun and worth it.”

“Hopefully she’s excited. Hopefully she doesn’t get to talkin and think…” he trailed off.

“Are you thinking she’s not going to be excited to meet you?” Molly asked.

“[Hopefully] she’s not thinking, ‘ooohhhhh… I wanted Cam to come’,” he joked.


What she didn’t know was #59 is waiting with flowers.

And when Luke hears organizers say “I have someone here I want to meet you” he makes his big entrance.

“Hey Jessica! How are you? I hear you give famous hugs,” he said.,

Jessica holds on tight. Luke hugs her right back.

“I got some flowers for you,” he said. “We’re going to make our way over to your birthday party, sound good?”


“It kinda goes both ways. I hopefully can make her night fun and hopefully she can make my night fun in return,” he said earlier in the limo. “Kinda cool because it’s not a one-way street.”

You may need some Kleenex handy for the video news report of the story:

WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Amazing stuff. Seeing this headline or reading about Kuechly’s gesture is one thing, but watching how genuine and happy he was to spend that time with Jessica really was fantastic.

In what has an embarrasing last few years for the NFL off the field, it’s great to see a story like this involving one of the league’s biggest stars. We need more of them.


About Matt Clapp

Matt is an editor at The Comeback. He attended Colorado State University, wishes he was Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, and idolizes Larry David. And loves pizza and dogs because obviously.

He can be followed on Twitter at @Matt2Clapp (also @TheBlogfines for Cubs/MLB tweets and @DaBearNecess for Bears/NFL tweets), and can be reached by email at

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