Andrew Luck, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and Indianapolis Colts franchise player whose career became increasingly dogged by injuries in recent years, has announced he is retiring from professional football aged 29.
ESPN was first to report Luck’s stunning decision on Saturday night while the Colts were hosting the Chicago Bears in a preseason contest at Lucas Oil Stadium, saying the signal-caller was “mentally worn down” and had already spoken with Colts owner Jim Irsay about calling it quits.
After the game, Luck made it official in an emotional press conference.
“I’ve been stuck in this process,” said Luck, who’s missed 26 games over the past four seasons due to a litany of shoulder, kidney, ankle and rib ailments. “I haven’t been able to life the live I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game.”
He added: “The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.”
One of the most highly touted amateur prospects of his generation, Luck was chosen with the No 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft as the Colts’ successor to Peyton Manning following a decorated collegiate career at Stanford University.
The son of former Houston Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck immediately delivered on his promise, leading Indianapolis to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons without missing a start, including a 2014 campaign where he threw a league-best 40 touchdown passes while helming the Colts to the AFC championship game.
But an injury to his throwing shoulder during the opening month of the 2015 season was the first of many woes that would come to compromise Luck’s fitness, including a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle later that year which ended his season. That didn’t stop the Colts from signing Luck that summer to a six-year extension worth $140m, including $87m guaranteed, to make him the highest paid player in the NFL at the time.
After undergoing surgery on the shoulder ahead of the 2017 season, Luck was held out the entire year as the Colts slumped to 4-12 mostly with back-up quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center. Luck returned to play all 16 games in 2018, passing for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns to win the league’s Comeback Player of the Year award, but he’d been sidelined throughout the 2019 preseason with a mysterious leg ailment.
“For the last four years I’ve been in this cycle of injury-pain-rehab, injury-pain-rehab that’s been unceasing and unrelenting, both in-season and in the offseason,” Luck said on Saturday. “I don’t know if there was a final straw, per se. The lack of progress, I think, just builds up. I can’t remember if there was one thing that (was) a tipping point or a final straw. I feel so much clarity and again so grateful for the experiences and the positive times that I have had here.”
Brissett, who joined the Colts from the New England Patriots in 2017, will be expected to start for Indianapolis when they open their regular season on 8 September at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Luck, who watched his team’s 27-17 loss to Chicago from the sidelines on Saturday night, left the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for the final time to a cascade of boos from a home crowd who had become aware of the news as the game took place.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear it,” he said. “It hurt.”
Colts fans boo-ing Andrew Luck as he walks into the Lockeroom.
Coach always said, “the pats on the back eventually turn into stabs” pic.twitter.com/awT6yHCikY
— Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) August 25, 2019
Even considering Luck’s accumulating injuries, the star quarterback’s retirement is perhaps the most shocking in NFL history since Barry Sanders abruptly walked away from the Detroit Lions before the 1999 season while still in his prime and within striking distance of the career rushing record.
Luck, who turns 30 next month, finishes his career with 2,000 completions, 3,290 attempts and 23,671 yards, all third in the AFC South club’s 67-year history only to Manning and Johnny Unitas. His 171 touchdown passes in the six seasons he played are the second most in NFL history over a player’s first six seasons after Dan Marino (196).
“This is not an easy decision,” he said. “It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.”