CINCINNATI - After Luke Kuechly shared his TD spotlight with a fan, it's easy to see why the St. Xavier High grad is a favorite among the Carolina Panthers.
And that goes double for his high school coach.
"Luke never ceases to amaze me," St. X coach Steve Specht said after watching one of his former stars shine in the NFC Championship game Sunday night. "He's special."
The All-Pro linebacker didn't just score a pick-six to help lead his team over the Arizona Cardinals and into Super Bowl 50. He stopped his celebration to help a fan who fell out of the stands. The fan had leaned over the railing to give Kuechly a high-five and Kuechly helped him to his feet.
"That's Luke," Specht laughed. "He's as good a person off the field as on it. And humble. As a coach, anytime you see one of your kids succeed at anything - whether it's accounting or football -- it's a great feeling, especially with somebody like Luke. He's just a neat, neat person from a really great family.
"He made me a better coach, that's for sure."
Kuechly is one of four players who will be representing Cincinnati in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 at Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
Offensive guard Andrew Norwell (Anderson HS) is also a starter for the Panthers.
Defensive end Derek Wolfe (University of Cincinnati) is a starter for the Denver Broncos.
Broncos defensive end Vance Walker, born in Cincinnati, is listed as second-string on the depth chart.
Kuechly became the first NFL player with a pick-six in back-to-back playoffs games. He had one against the Packers the week before to go with four other interceptions during the regular season. Afterward, he told NFL Network he is looking forward to playing against Broncos' legend Peyton Manning.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 25, 2016
Kuechly, the ninth pick in the 2012 draft, became an instant sensation for the Panthers. The Boston College star led the NFL in tackles (164, 103 solo) as a rookie and was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. A year later, he won AP Defensive Player of the Year. In 2014, he led the NFL in tackles again (153, 99 solo). He has been All-Pro three years running.
Norwell played at Ohio State and made the Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Because of injuries, Norwell was thrown into the starting lineup in the seventh game of his rookie season and has started ever since.
Wolfe has started for the Broncos since he was drafted in the second round in 2012. He had 49 tackles (35 solo) and 5.5 sacks this year despite missing four games due to injury. As a UC senior, Wolfe was second-team All- America with 9.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for a loss.
Walker is listed as Wolfe's backup and started while Wolfe was hurt. "I have a ton of extended family on my mom and dad's side who live there still," the Cincinnati native said in a tweet to @WCPO. Walker signed as a free agent with Denver this year after playing for Kansas City, Oakland and Atlanta. The Falcons drafted him in the seventh round in 2009. He went to Georgia Tech after playing high school football in Fort Mill, S.C.