Former First Overall NFL Draft Pick Andrew Luck Retires at 29

“With the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts select… Andrew Luck!”

Ihsaan Fanusie, Sports Editor

         It came as no surprise to anyone who followed football that the Stanford Quarterback would go off the board first; for months, the only question was who would have the honor of selecting him. The 2011 season saw the Minnesota Vikings, Saint Louis Rams, and Indianapolis Colts all in a race for the worst record in the National Football League. 

         In fact, the season was marked by a fan campaign called “Suck for Luck,” in which NFL fan bases would cheer for their respective teams to do poorly so that they would acquire the number one pick in the draft.

         In 2011, ESPN analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay said, “It is seemingly unanimous among NFL scouts and front-office personnel that Stanford redshirt junior Andrew Luck is the top quarterback prospect to come along in the past 30 years, a once-in-a-generation player almost guaranteed to become an immediate star at the next level.”

         Also in 2011, Bleacher Report published an article calling Andrew Luck the ‘perfect prospect,’ and a better college ball player than Peyton Manning. By consensus, he was considered a once-in-a-lifetime football star. 

         And he produced. Through seven seasons (one of which was marred by a shoulder injury), Luck amassed 23,671 passing yards, 171 touchdowns, and posted an 89.5 career passer’s rating. Luck made the Pro Bowl 4 times and was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year last year.

         Yet last month, before the 2019 NFL season began, Andrew Luck announced that he was retiring from professional football. In an August 24 press conference Luck said, “I’ve been stuck in this process. I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game.”

         Presumably, the continuous injuries and physical and mental damage were the prime factors in his decision to step away from the game. In his press conference, Luck said that for four years he has been a cycle of pain and rehab. In the future, Luck hopes to heal as he steps away from the game that he loved for decades and focuses on other pursuits, including his wife and unborn son.

         “The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football,” Luck said. “This is not an easy decision. It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.”

         Undoubtedly, Luck was a premier player in the NFL. Consistently ranking as one of the top active Quarterbacks in the NFL by analysts and peers, he left a huge mark on the fans, players, and league as a whole.  

         Accordingly, his retirement brings to light several issues that have plagued the NFL’s reputation in recent years. 

         The discovery of the link between football and CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in the early 2000’s brought awareness to the danger of head injuries caused by football collisions. A 2015 movie called Concussion documented the NFL response to medical research finding brain disease in former NFL players.

         Other players have also relented to injuries during the prime of their careers. Some notable names are six-time pro bowler Calvin Johnson, three-time Super Bowl champ Rob Gronkowski, and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis and Chris Borland.

         While injuries are and have always been a part of football, early retirements of star players could tip the league to institute some changes to make the game safer.