There have been many stunning athlete retirements throughout history, but Andrew Luck’s decision to call it quits in 2019 was unquestionably one of the most unexpected of them all.
The Stanford product was viewed as a generational, can’t-miss quarterback prospect when the Indianapolis Colts drafted him first overall in 2012. Luck took the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, going as far as the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
After missing the entire 2017 season recovering from shoulder surgery, Luck returned to his superstar form in 2018. He tossed 4,593 passing yards and 39 touchdowns, helping the Colts snag an unexpected wild card berth in the AFC.
Luck was named the Comeback Player of the Year. Teammate Darius Leonard (now Shaquille Leonard) won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, too. It simply looked like the Colts were ready to enter championship contention again…only for Luck to announce his retirement on Aug. 24:
Luck has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since his retirement. But during an interview with ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, the four-time Pro Bowler went into detail about what caused him to walk away before his 30th birthday.
“To play quarterback, you’re not allowed to worry about anything except the task at hand,” Luck told Wickersham. “And that seeps into other areas of life. It’s not the healthiest way to live.”
Wickersham added that “all of the attention made” Luck squirm.
Wickersham then asked him, “How much of your self-identity was tied to being a quarterback?”. How did Luck respond?
“A lot. A lot. A LOT. And I didn’t realize that until after the fact.”
Luck is simply one of the greatest “What if” stories in NFL history. What if he had stayed healthy throughout career? Perhaps the desire and drive to keep playing would have never fully gone away.
Not only was he sidelined for the entire 2017 season, but Luck also missed nine games for the Colts in 2015 after suffering a lacerated kidney which ended his season. In the weeks leading up to his retirement announcement, Luck was also dealing with a leg injury.
The Colts have not been the same since Luck’s retirement. They’ve had four different Week 1 starters since 2019, and the organization hasn’t won a playoff game since he walked away.