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Five things to know about Frankie Luvu

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The Washington Commanders have bolstered their linebacker corps by signing former Carolina Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu. Here are five things to know about one of the newest members of the Commanders' defense.

1. He brings versatility.

Technically, Luvu is going to be a linebacker for the Commanders, but that's not how he would classify himself. His skill set indicates that he can do much more than that.

"You can put my anywhere," Luvu said, "and we're gonna go get it."

**Former Panthers defensive coordinator Al Holcomb called it Luvu’s “evolution” as a player.** After starting as mostly a special teams player for the New York Jets, he signed with the Panthers in 2021 and was used at multiple spots on their defense. That decision was made by Holcomb as part of an effort to make Luvu a more complete player, and Luvu embraced that role.

"It's been an eye-opener for me, it's a challenge, but I'm up for the challenge," Luvu said. "Wherever they put me, said it since OTAs and training camp, whatever they want me to do, I'm going to learn it and do whatever I can."

Holcomb knew Luvu has several strengths, from setting the edge to playing off the ball. So, rather than limiting Luvu to using only one trait, he decided to use Luvu in a way that highlighted all of his better qualities.

While Luvu's exact role was never really defined, his teammates knew how valuable he was to the defense.

"He's one of those guys who plays fast, plays physical; he's the Energizer bunny to this defense," said linebacker Shaq Thompson. "He's a fast-twitch guy and just makes plays."

2. He was a captain in 2023 and took it seriously.

Luvu saw a serious increase in responsibility around the middle of the 2023 season. The season-ending injury to Thompson led to Luvu being named a captain, and he got the green dot that signifies him as the on-field play caller.

Luvu didn't take those new roles lightly. Rather than spend his Tuesdays -- commonly used as a day off around the NLF -- getting away from football, he was at the Panthers' stadium, watching film and preparing for his next opponent.

"It's not enough to just come on Wednesday and re-watch film," **Luvu said.** "It's going to take us to where this team can go, as far as watching film, getting that extra film, getting that extra look in, and getting the body right."

Being a leader was not new territory for Luvu. His teammates already saw him in that role, so aside from getting the plays and relaying them to the defense, he was ready for the challenges that going from contributor to overseer presented him.

"I'm all in, I'm ready for it, I'm made for this," Luvu said. "What can I say, man? This is my calling. And taking that green dot, and having that C on my chest, it comes with high responsibilities and, with that coming, I can take that."

It's likely that Bobby Wagner will assume most of that role in Washington. Luvu can still help set the tone as they try to restructure the Commanders' defense.

Take a look back at Frankie Luvu's previous stops before joining the Washington Commanders. (Photos via The Associated Press)

3. Luke Kuechly is a big fan.

Luvu still has a lot to learn as he prepares for his seventh season and third team. Being guided by a future Hall of Famer should help with some of that.

"[Frankie] plays football the right way," former Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said last year. "I'm jealous of the guys that are still out there that get to play with him."

Kuechly's eight-year career was one of the best in recent memory. He was the 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year and made seven straight Pro Bowls and received as many All-Pro selection. He recorded at least 100 tackles in each season, leading the league in stops twice, and grabbed 18 interceptions.

So, obviously Kuechly knows the position better than most, and he loves what he sees from Luvu.

"I think his energy, passion and love for football is something that's been really good for us when you lose a lot of guys," **Kuechly said.** "Like, who's one of our guys we look to that's passionate, loves football, has great energy, is around the ball, plays physical, who's tough, will play hurt? He embodies all of that stuff."

Like most people who watch Luvu, Kuechly appreciates how he is able to make plays from anywhere on the field. "You don't know where he's gonna line up," Kuechly said. "He could line up on the ball, off the ball, on the right, on the left." But no matter what he does, Luvu stands out on film, and that carries significant weight for Kuechly.

"He's fun to watch," Kuechly said. "He's around the ball. When you watch the game, it's like, "Oh, there's Frankie." He just pops up and pops up and pops up. Guys that just pop up are football players."

4. He took a long path to earning his U.S. citizenship.

Luvu was born in Tafuna, American Samoa and lived there until 2013, when he started his college career at Washington State. He was a U.S. National due to American Samoa being a territory of the United States, but he didn't become a naturalized citizen until last August.

It was the end goal to over a year's worth of hard work on top of his demands as an NFL player.

"The bigger picture of me doing everything I did was to sponsor them, and getting them out here to watch my games and watch me play pro."

Luvu had to pass the naturalization test before receiving his citizenship. It consists of 100 questions on United States civics, and each answer had to be provided orally. The questions focused on the United States Constitution, defining the "rule of law" and naming the branches of government.

Luvu practiced with the team's athletic trainers while working out in the offseason, and the Panthers' vice president of player affairs Kevin Winston and player affairs manager Jaiquawn Jarrett showed up for the naturalization ceremony in August.

"Just showing love, they're always wanting to dive in anything, as far as success," **Luvu said.** "I was really low-key about it, get it done, get back to work. But once they knew about it, they're like, 'Yeah, man, we want to come out, support.' So yeah, they came out and showed love. I appreciate that."

5. He's coming off a career season.

Although Luvu has been in the NFL since 2018, it's taken some time for him to hit his stride. He spent three seasons with the Jets and only had four starts for the team before moving on to the Panthers, and it still took him another season to establish himself as a full-time starter.

However, it seems like the Commanders are signing him at the right time, because he's coming off two stellar campaigns.

Over the past six years, Luvu's stats include 338 tackles, 41 quarterback hits, 20 sacks and 12 pass breakups. He's accumulated over two-thirds of his tackles, 12.5 of his sacks, nearly half of his quarterback hits and nine of his pass breakups since 2022. In the time that Luvu became a starter for the Panthers, he grabbed his first interception and returned it for a touchdown, set a career high in sacks and finished 10th in the NFC in tackles.

So, it makes sense why the Commanders were so quick to add his services to their roster. He's been versatile throughout his career, but now his production is starting to show how valuable that trait can be.

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