Luck at peace in life after Colts

Apr. 12—Andrew Luck has found peace in life after the NFL.

In an alternate universe, the 34-year-old might be the face of the league at the peak of a Hall of Fame career.

In this reality, he's the proud father of two young girls and a part-time high school football coach.

Over the past five years, he said he's never felt a tug to return to his celebrated playing career.

"I think when I retired, that part of it was put to bed in my mind in a very simple, direct way," Luck said Friday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "There were a lot of complications around it. (I was) tormented inside as you guys saw that night. But that part of it has been stowed away."

Luck was back at the Indianapolis Colts' practice facility to support his former head coach, Chuck Pagano, at the 12th annual ChuckStrong Gala to benefit the fight against leukemia.

It's not the first time he's been back since retiring in August 2019, but it's certainly the most high profile.

Pagano joked he dipped into Colts owner Jim Irsay's deep pockets to lure his former quarterback home. But, in truth, all he had to do was ask.

"We have a great relationship," Luck said. "He was a massive influence on my life in a positive way."

Luck's rookie season in 2012 remains the high point of the franchise's post-Peyton Manning era.

With Pagano battling leukemia at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center just blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts rallied from a 1-2 start to make the playoffs under interim head coach Bruce Arians.

Pagano returned to the team on Christmas Eve — the day after a wild-card playoff spot was clinched — and took the sideline for the regular-season finale against the Houston Texans to a standing ovation.

It was a fairy tale season Luck said he's only now beginning to fully appreciate.

"While I was in it, I certainly don't think I understood the gravity of the situation," Luck said. "And it's certainly, with time, a way that you realize, whoa, how special that year was in many ways — most importantly that Chuck made it back.

"And I think while playing that year, and while it is cliché, I do think you have tunnel vision. You sort of have to, to step on the field and go play quarterback, go do whatever. And again, with time, the blinders certainly widen, and you have a different perspective."

Luck completed 60.8% of his passes for 23,671 yards with 171 touchdowns and 83 interceptions for Indianapolis from 2012-18. He was 53-33 as a starter and helped the franchise win two AFC South titles and make four playoff appearances.

The Colts were 4-4 in the postseason during that span and advanced to the AFC Championship Game following the 2014 regular season.

He'll be remembered for stirring comebacks and deep passes to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. And, of course, there will always be the question of what more he and his teammates could have accomplished if shoulder and calf injuries hadn't conspired to end his career far too early.

Pagano prefers to remember the best of times and said Luck's Indy legacy is clear.

"The guy was one of the fiercest competitors, warrior, great teammate, great player," Pagano said. "We know the skillset, generational talent. The guy gave everything that he had day in and day out."

Luck's football participation these days is limited to what little he can watch on TV between his duties as a father and the occasional Stanford home game or practice.

He did make it to one San Francisco 49ers game last season, and he helped coach Palo Alto High School when he could.

That's been enough to scratch his gridiron itch.

"I certainly realize I still love this game, and I want to have it integrated in my life," Luck said. "It's gotta be different."

Luck counts 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey — a fellow Stanford product — and Colts running back Jonathan Taylor among his favorite current players.

And he's kept tabs on his former team in Indianapolis.

Only center Ryan Kelly, long snapper Luke Rhodes and punter Rigoberto Sanchez remain from the roster during Luck's final season of 2018.

But his eldest daughter was born in Indianapolis, and he still has family in the city. He's kept his Indy 500 tickets, and he misses the month of May.

Luck hasn't yet met the new franchise quarterback in person.

He has shared texts with Anthony Richardson and hoped to meet up this weekend, but the logistics didn't work out.

"I know we'll get to meet at some point," Luck said. "And I do hesitate with advice, and he's certainly not a kid. I mean, that guy's out there playing quarterback for the NFL, and that's hard. It's really hard.

"And I think he has the approach, I think he's got the support system to be able to be a real success in this league and real dynamic, dynamic player that Colts fans can be proud of and fans around the country (can) be proud of. So I'm excited to watch where this thing goes."