Late Saturday night on Aug. 24, 29-year-old Indianapolis Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck announced that he was retiring from the game of football. Over six seasons Luck played 86 career games tallying a 53-33 record, throwing 171 touchdowns with 23,671 passing yards and 83 interceptions.
Luck explained that the reason behind his retirement was due to constant injuries that he had sustained over his career, which led to a lot of time on the sidelines. In 2015 he missed two games with a sprained shoulder before later missing the rest of the season with a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle. Luck played the 2016 season through some discomfort caused by torn cartilage in his ribs, but only missed one game of the season due to a concussion. Pains from the shoulder injury in 2015 never went away and after surgery before the 2017 offseason and several rehab setbacks Luck was placed on the injured reserve for all of 2017.
Luck went on to play all of 2018 and looked like he was back to his old self, posting a 10-6 record, 4,593 passing yards, 39 touchdowns to a mere 15 interceptions in winning 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Then reports of a calf strain leaked going into 2019 season. This last injury seemed to not only impact him physically but mentally too.
“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 offseason, and I felt stuck in it,” said Luck as he formally announced his retirement in a post-game press conference. “The only way I see out is to no longer play football I’ve been stuck in this process. I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. Taken the joy out of the game, and after 2016, when I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again. I find myself in a similar situation and the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football and this cycle that I’ve been in.”
When asked if Luck had planned to hold a news conference that day he admitted that he had not. The news was not supposed to come for another day and he had not even told his teammates yet.
“No, I was going to tell my teammates after the game and 3 p.m. tomorrow was the time I was going to tell you guys,” said Luck.
Instead, Adam Shefter broke the news while Luck was on the sideline watching his then Colts take on the Chicago Bears in a preseason game. News spread across the stadium and cameras caught several shocked and disgruntled fans as they placed their faces in their hands. Many fans even took off their Luck jerseys. After the game Luck would walk out of Lucas Oil Stadium as a Colt for the last time to a sea of boos from the Colts faithfuls.
The news sent shockwaves throughout the NFL as players rallied to support someone they saw as not only a great player, but a great man. One of those who spoke out was Robert Griffin III, who was drafted behind Luck as the number two pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Griffin, who has had his fair share of injuries as well, says that what Luck did was human and brave.
“We’re looked at as superheroes, as not [being] human beings,” Griffin said on Luck’s retirement in an interview. “For him to have that human element and express it in his press conference after the game … I thought that was really big.“
Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman also expressed his support for Luck while bringing up the same point that Griffin brought up, football players are humans.
“We’re human beings. We’re not robots,” Norman said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington. “You can’t turn us on, turn us off when you want…. Yeah, they may see the numbers and how much we get paid. But you’ve also got to understand that’s it’s a livelihood where if something happens you can’t do something for the rest of your life. That is much bigger than the numbers and whatever else that they look at it.”
Hearing that your franchise quarterback is retiring in the prime of his career is never easy, but when you hear his words on why, with the support he got from others in the league it becomes more than that. He becomes more than the guy we watched on Sundays. More than the guy that we cheered on for the big wins and equally for the losses. We see a man who has been through a lot and who is more than what the helmet and pads show.
As fans, it is hard to remember that these guys are more than just athletes. They are husbands, fathers, and sons and ultimately they have to make decisions that help them live that part of their life to the best of their ability. It is easy for us to think that the game is everything to them. To think that they owe it to us to play week in and week out. But the people they really owe it to are those in their life and themselves.