Mere weeks before the start of the regular season in the NFL, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the league at the age of 29, citing the mental and physical toll a series of injuries have taken on him throughout his career.
In the team’s third preseason game against the Chicago Bears, news of Luck’s retirement broke and the quarterback was booed by the fans in Lucas Oil Stadium as he left the field.
Several NFL players spoke out about the actions of the fans in Indy and online.
“I didn’t like it,” Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton said to IndyStar. “He didn’t deserve that. He gave a lot to the city and the community. He gave everything he had. What more could you ask?”
“Well, surprise was obviously the first emotion,” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in a Mad Dog Radio interview. “He’s a young player, he’s had a really, really good career. But I think the second is a little disgust, maybe, at the way that it was handled. Him getting booed, the word leaking out the way that it did, I thought that was a little disgusting because here’s a guy who’s making a quality of life decision. And he’s given a lot to the game. He’s not a 15-year vet, but he’s put himself through a ton just to get back on the field.”
The team and Luck held a press conference following the news on Aug. 24, making his retirement official.
“It’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and offseason, and I felt stuck in it,” Luck said. “And the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away and … I’ve been stuck in this process (and) haven’t been able to live the life I want to live.”
Drafted by the Colts in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Luck helped turn the team around after it went 2-14 in 2011. In his first three seasons, Luck led the team to winning seasons, playoff games and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl in each of these seasons (as well as a fourth appearance in 2018).
However, the 2015 season would begin Luck’s injury woes, as he injured his throwing shoulder in Week 3, and missed two games. Midway through that season, he would suffer a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle, placing him on the shelf for the rest of the year and causing the Colts to finish with an 8-8 record.
Luck rebounded in 2016, working through the nagging shoulder pain and throwing for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns and a career-high 63.5 completion percentage.
However, the shoulder injury was taking its toll on Luck, and he missed the entire 2017 campaign after undergoing surgery to repair his labrum in January of that year.
Colts management avoided questions or denied the severity of the injury until surgery, and Luck would suffer several setbacks throughout the year rehabilitating the injury.
It wasn’t until June 2018, following extensive rehab, that Luck returned to the gridiron and had a miraculous season, going 10-6 in the regular season, throwing for 4,593 yards, and 39 touchdowns and making it to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Luck was given the National Football League Comeback Player of the Year Award by the Pro Football Writers Association at the end of the season, with the Colts poised to be the frontrunners in the AFC South in 2019.
The tumultuous series of injuries returned for Luck in the offseason, as he faced an unspecified calf/ankle injury. While reports never detailed the severity of the injury, the pain did not go away, and Luck had no intention of repeating the 2016 season, where he played through the labrum injury, aggravating it in the process.
“In 2016, after that season when I played through some stuff I made a vow to myself that I would never do that to myself again,” Luck said in his retirement press conference. “The lack of progress just builds up. … I feel so much clarity and I’m, again, so grateful for the experiences and the positive times that I have had here.”
A unique characteristic of Luck was his politeness to defensive backs that would take him down, often telling them “good job” or “nice hit.”
“He’s the nicest guy you’d ever meet in your life,” former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said in an NFL.com interview.
Luck took a number of hits throughout his career, as he was sacked 141 times, more than any other quarterback in the league between 2012 and 2016.
Luck had similar thoughts of leaving the league during his struggle with the shoulder injury, as he spoke last August to Atlantic Reporter Zak Keefer.
“There was an uncertainty, an apprehension,” Luck said. “I was scared, scared in my core, in my insides. There was a time I was very scared about football, and about my place in football.”
Luck ends his career with a 55-33 regular-season record, 2000 completed passes out of 3,290 for 23,671 yards and 171 touchdowns to 83 interceptions according to the official website of the Colts. He ranks third all-time in franchise history in completions, passing attempts, passing yards and touchdowns.
He is second in completion percentage (60.8) and quarterback ranking (89.5). He has four Pro Bowl appearances, four trips to the postseason and led his team to a winning record in five out of seven seasons.
Stanford, Luck’s alma-mater holds the quarterback in high regard for putting its football program on the map. He was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy two years in a row and was the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2011.
Before Luck, Stanford had never won more than 10 games in one season (only three times prior) when Luck’s 2010 team won 12. From 2010-2011, the team won 23 wins, the most since the 1991-1992 seasons. Opposed to its three weeks in the AP top ten in 1971, the 2010-2011 teams spent 24 weeks in the top ten.
After Luck was drafted in 2012, the team continued to win conference titles and make it to significant BCS Bowl Games, especially the Rose Bowl.
The Colts begin regular season play with backup Jacoby Brissett at the quarterback position at Los Angeles against the Chargers on Sept. 8.