Andrew Luck was supposed to become the “Peyton Manning” of his generation at the quarterback position after graduating from Stanford University. The comparison turned out to be very fitting for Luck. Instead of taking his bachelor’s degree and pursuing a job in architectural design, he declared for the National Football League Draft and became the Indianapolis Colts heir apparent to a recently departed Manning, when the team drafted him first overall in 2012.
Fast-forward seven seasons later—-Luck shocked the world on Saturday when he abruptly retired from the NFL. With just two weeks remaining until the start of the regular season, the quarterback once compared by the Kansas City Star with LeBron James and Bryce Harper as “the most hyped amateurs in recent sports memory” left the Colts high-and-dry, in an unexpected move that crushed his teammates’ and their fans’ Super Bowl dreams.
Normally, this decision would be evaluated and analyzed in an unfavorable manner regarding Luck’s choice to step away from the franchise. However, the 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year cites injuries and mental-health concerns as his reasons to call-it-quits, prior to entering the prime years of his blossoming career.
Football is a barbaric game where herculean athletes often ignore the violent injuries they suffer. By gutting it out, they sacrifice their long-term health for the sake of their teammates, their contracts, and their passion for the game.
According to ESPN, Luck says, “This is not an easy decision. Honestly, it’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me. For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab, and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and off-season, and I felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football.”
Those significant injury woes started plaguing the four-time Pro Bowl QB in 2015, when he missed two games because of an injured shoulder. After sitting out Weeks 4 and 5, he returned and played until early November when he suffered a lacerated kidney and partially-torn abdominal muscle. He missed the rest of the season and the Colts failed to make the playoffs for the first time since Luck was drafted.
After regaining his health, 2018 proved to be a bounce-back season for Luck. He played all of his teams games for the first time since 2014, throwing for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns. All seemed to be okay with the quarterback heading into the 2019 season, when it was reported in early August that he was being held out of preseason camp for ankle and calf injuries. Three weeks later, the Colts are without their franchise quarterback and the entire sports world is currently scratching its head.
Standing on one side of mid-field, it is easy to be critical regarding the timing of Luck’s decision. There are two weeks left till Colts season-opener at the Los Angeles Chargers, and back-up QB Jacoby Brissett has been thrust into a starting role with expectations to lead the once Super Bowl-aspiring team moving forward. His history in a starting-role has been plagued with inconsistent results both statistically and in the wins column. Fans learned of the decision on Saturday during the Colts Week 3 preseason game. As Luck stood on the sidelines, he witnessed some of the Indianapolis faithful ripping off their jerseys mid-game, and later mentioned that he was affected emotionally.
On the other end of the spectrum, who can blame the guy for throwing in the towel? The mental effects of injury to rehab to game action can be grueling for even the most heralded athletes, and Luck has been repeating the process since 2015. More often than ever-before, NFL players are retiring early, in attempts to avoid further injuries. Many of those players suffer from lingering-symptoms, and they suffer while continuing their dreams of playing a sport they once-deemed enjoyable. However, living with pain comparable to that of a car-wreck survivor isn’t very fun and he lived that pain frequently, ultimately suffering from 174 career sacks.
Football is the ultimate team sport. Everyday, players lay-it-all on the line for each other because each of them is considered a vital cog to the success of their season. They are each one link in a connected-chain. When that chain begins to break, another one soon follows and the rest of the season is spent struggling to pedal to the finish line. Luck decided he no longer wanted to be a leader, a football player, or an Indianapolis sports icon. Instead, he decided it was more important to preserve his long-term health and life after football because he feels it’s more important to be a husband and father. Like I mentioned before, this is a complete shock and everyone in the sporting-world, as well as myself have no idea what to think, It’s too early to decide what his legacy will be. All we can do is thank “Number 12” for the incredible display of grit, toughness, and beautiful play of the quarterback position since first meeting him while at Stanford.
Header Photo Credit: Indianapolis Star