Welcome back to Postgame Press, the column about the hottest sports stories off the field. The NFL started recently and already has no shortage of news. The first story on the docket was the retiring of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Hailed as one of the greatest draft prospects of a generation, Luck found himself sitting on the bench often due to a seemingly endless string of injuries. That said, when he was on the field, he excelled and showed glimpses of the prospect who was promised.
This offseason, at the age of 29 — younger than half of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL — Andrew Luck retired. This was a nearly unprecedented moment for football. Following on the heels of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement at the same age, Luck showed that this may not just be an outlier. Recently, some young NFL players have been retiring due to possible future, not past, damage. Players like Gronkowski and Luck had long histories of poor health, but other players, such as Chris Borland, retired even before they had issues. While the NFL has ‘superhuman’ men like Tom Brady, who has played for nearly two decades and is still going strong, some younger players are retiring before their bodies are destroyed. There is a growing concern about the sport’s future considering what further chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a condition prevalent among football players due to the violent nature of the sport — studies may reveal, and whether those findings may stop aspiring players from pursuing the NFL.
Andrew Luck came into the league with championship expectations, whether that was fair or not. He performed well when on the field, but he could not stay healthy. He decided that a life of rehabilitating was not a life he enjoyed and decided that money was not incentive enough to continue through the pain and sorrow. A man with so much weight on his shoulders, who had played so hard and come back from injury time and time again, was a class act as he decided to hang up his shoulder pads.
When he walked off the field after the announcement, which came from a tweet from NFL insider Adam Schefter and not from Luck himself, he received boos. I have previously written about my dismay at booing in stadiums, but this was brutal. Andrew Luck gave so much to Indianapolis. Some, like myself, called him a bust. Luck, despite being heroic, did not live up to the (perhaps undeserved) heavy expectations that fans had for him. While he did not ask to be placed under such pressure, he belongs to the category of ‘what-might-have-been’. But whether or not he was a bust compared to the public’s hefty expectations, he deserved so much better than home-crowd boos.
To me, his impact and legacy is more important than what he did on the field. Luck proved that someone can walk away from the game, in spite of the pressure, absurd public opinion at someone else’s career choice and loads of money, to preserve his future and do what will make him happy. It was a brave choice and I wish Luck joy in his retired life.