On Saturday, August 24, 2019, it started with a tweet that sent a shock wave through the sports world from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Andrew Luck was going to retire from the National Football League. What was even more shocking was that the news dropped in the middle of the Colts’ preseason game against the Chicago Bears (final score 27-17 in favor of the Bears).
Luck walked off the field to booing from the Indy faithful, proceeded to have a press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium and made the rumors true.
As an added note, it was rumored that a formal press conference featuring Luck’s parents was set for the following day. During his time at the podium, Andrew Luck cited injuries, mental and emotional fatigue as the main reasons for stepping away from the game unexpectedly. At the time of the announcement, and the posting of this piece, Luck is a mere 29 years old.
What does being 29 years old have to do with anything? While most players that enter the NFL typically average around the ages of 20-22 years old. The average professional football career in the NFL is approximately three years long. Doing some quick math here, guys are out of the league between the ages of 23-25 years old.
What’s the big deal? A lot of those same players who are done with their professional careers are forced out of the league because they can’t get, or rather keep, a job in the NFL. It’s not their choice. Emphasis on, their choice.
Andrew Luck made the choice to leave the game. With evidence over the last several seasons, more and more high profile players are making the choice to step away from the game at ages fans would assume is still their prime. Case and point, Vontae Davis of the Buffalo Bills, last season retired from the game at halftime. He was done. Poof. Gone. In the middle of the game! While that decision, and the timing of it was unheard and quite frankly unthinkable, it was jarring to those both in and out of the game. Several seasons ago, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson stepped away from the game. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis retired early while in his prime as well. So while the examples are there, Andrew Luck’s situation is still unique in its own right. Let’s examine.
After completing his degree at Stanford in 2012, Andrew Luck was drafted first overall by the Colts, and it was clear as day that the man did not need football. It’s also worth noting that he is also the son of Oliver Luck, current Chief Executive Officer and Commissioner of the upcoming XFL football league. Long story short, Luck wasn’t the most underprivileged child. That doesn’t take anything anyway from his accomplishments or professional career choice, either, let’s make that clear. But it does say something to the position of quarterback in the modern NFL where we see guys enter the league that don’t need to play, but merely want to. Other examples, Miami Dolphins quatrerback and former UCLA Bruin, Josh Rosen (Wharton family descendant) and Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff. Sticking with Rosen, who has been criticized for being aloof, bored, “too smart”, has demonstrated to some degree to his coaches at both levels that playing the game of football has been for pure enjoyment. One could argue, isn’t that the point in the first place? Others may rebuttal, you play the game because you need the game.
I say all of this to say, we are for certain living in a new time. Players are getting paid more. Players are walking away from the game, with the hopes of keeping their bodies and minds intact. Players are demonstrating that the risks of playing football “forever” is for the birds. Here’s the twist, how many players have the privilege and opportunity to step into the league with a mindset of not needing football? In this case specifically, how many players that aren’t Black have the ability to do so? Think about it.