What occurred to Andrew Luck? Our New Sequence Goes Inside Her Rise, A Surprising Retreat

Two and a half years after he surprised the soccer world, Andrew Luck walked right into a north Indianapolis cafe and requested if it was cool if we sat exterior. He stated his daughter, Lucy, caught a chilly in school and handed it on to him. His voice was hoarse, his nostril was operating.

Positive, I instructed him, considering at first it is perhaps some sort of cowl – he in all probability wished essentially the most discreet desk within the place, as removed from the entrance door as attainable. I will be sincere: throughout our 90-minute chat, I noticed just a few heads flip. Is that Andrew Luck? they needed to marvel. Is it actually him?

Sure it was. And sure, he nonetheless lives in Indianapolis, simply minutes from the Foals‘, the place the franchise he was as soon as the face of remains to be making an attempt to maneuver previous his premature exit. Luck’s resolution in August 2019 was one of the most shocking in sports history.

The evening he walked away from NFL – which was the craziest evening of my profession – my long-time colleague, Stephen Holder, turned to me after the press convention and stated, “This can be the final time we are going to see it.

I considered that for a second.

“Perhaps you are proper,” I instructed him.

Thirty-two months into Luck’s retirement, that prophecy got here true: Luck had basically turn out to be a ghost. You’ve got by no means seen him on the video games. I’ve by no means seen him within the crew amenities. He declined all interview requests made to him; imagine me, there have been lots of them. Even his former teammates and coaches remained silent on the matter, providing solely obscure updates when requested.

Why? As a result of that is how Luck most well-liked it.

In some ways, he felt like he wished to vanish.

I heard whispers from associates and colleagues now and again. Somebody noticed him on the airport! The grocery retailer ! Exit to dinner!

However all of the whereas, it was laborious to not marvel: would we’ve got already hear about him once more?

And did we’d like it?

The top was so sudden, so stunning, however like all the things else within the NFL, life went on. The Colts have discovered a brand new quarterback. Then one other. Then one other. Luck’s identify appeared within the information each few months – he was hanging out with a colorado high school football teamit was with Robert Griffin III at the College Football Playoff Championship Game, Washington commanders wanted to trade for himthough he was nonetheless very a lot retired – however the tales would quickly fade away, deepening the thriller of what he was really doing…and if we ever discovered.

Andrew Luck makes an look on the court docket earlier than the beginning of the Faculty Soccer Playoff Nationwide Championship Recreation on Jan. 10, 2022. (Jenna Watson/USA Right now)

The day we met over espresso, I could not get the thought out of my head: he is solely 32 years outdated. This man is meant to be on the peak of his profession.

This specter nonetheless hangs over the Colts, the “what if”, the “what may have been”. Indy hasn’t gained a playoff sport since Luck got here out, and there isn’t any doubt in my thoughts that actuality is consuming away at proprietor Jim Irsay. His crew has achieved an admirable job shifting ahead, refusing to crater, staying aggressive. However Irsay shouldn’t be there to be aggressive. The person needs Tremendous Bowls.

He may have one other one if Luck was nonetheless taking part in.

“It is laborious to understand the enormity of what occurs when Andrew leaves us at 29,” Irsay stated this spring. The person has been on this league for 50 years. By no means has he seen such a younger franchise quarterback retire 15 days earlier than the season opener.

The query I requested myself many times that evening – August 24, 2019 – remains to be the one which involves thoughts now and again.

How the hell did we get right here?

The thought was first introduced to me about 5 months in the past: a story podcast sequence that might attempt to discover the reply.

At first I resisted. No want to return. Hell, I have been by means of most of it. I lined the video games. I cracked up on the beatings he took. I attended these press conferences. At one level throughout his three-year shoulder saga, I had a file on my pc that contained all the things you wished to find out about labrum surgical procedure. It was 65,000 phrases.

Digging up that backup was the very last thing I wished to do.

However the extra I considered it, the extra I remembered how fascinating his story is and the way incomplete it nonetheless appears. A lot of the NFL schedule can appear monotonous, particularly from my seat, masking a crew day after day: coaching camp, the season, the playoffs, accidents, trades, signings, the draft, the rinse, repeat.

So many stunning, messy tales get misplaced in the course of this. Tales flooded with protection for just a few days, dissected and debated till nauseated, then barely reviewed once more.

It felt like a type of tales, a narrative that deserved one other look and, extra importantly, one other lens.

Luck’s launch — the when, the why, the how — sparked the dialog about what we must always count on from skilled athletes and, extra importantly, what we should not. For me, her story has by no means been so Soccer one because it was one Human one, and that is why it at all times appeared so fascinating. It felt like a Rorschach take a look at for prodigies that would – panting really discover happiness away from the world through which their items set them aside.

Ultimately, what do they owe to themselves?

What do they owe us?

His profession has at all times appeared to talk of this duality. He was the No. 1 draft decide who was averse to consideration, the franchise QB who wished to take the ultimate blow, the nerdy bookworm whose character went in opposition to so many stereotypes we’ve got on the publish.

The concept he did not like the sport was belied by the truth that he spent three years wanting himself on the pitch so his crew’s season would not crumble, his thrown shoulder destroyed and Torn rib cartilage and lacerated kidney be damned.

What does his story inform us? What does its output inform us?

“{That a} soccer life cannot be scripted,” veteran NFL author Peter King instructed me.

Maybe that’s the lesson in all of this. Take into consideration what franchises can study from Luck’s story, what to do – and extra importantly, what not to do – with a younger star quarterback, and the way nothing in skilled sports activities is assured, even one of many most secure bets in NFL historical past.

Actually, I assumed I knew Luck’s story.

I used to be incorrect.

I’ll always remember our interview with David Shaw, Luck’s coach at Stanford and an in depth confidant to today. I requested him: Did the Colts construct round him the precise means?

Shaw was silent for 3 lengthy seconds.

“That is essentially the most loaded query I’ve ever been requested,” he lastly stated.

Then he gave his reply – and it sounded just like the one he’d wished to eliminate his chest for fairly a while. It was the best perception I’ve ever heard on how luck actually felt the Colts’ personnel adjustments early in his profession. In public, he by no means stated a destructive phrase. However I at all times questioned what he thought in non-public.

Little did I do know that RGIII – who edged out Luck for the Heisman Trophy in 2011 – was really recruited by Jim Harbaugh at Stanford after Luck had signed with the Cardinal. Think about these two on the identical listing of scholars.

Little did I do know that D’Qwell Jackson, one of many Colts’ defensive leaders, went to Luck at one level and begged his QB to voice his opinions extra strongly to administration.

And whereas I knew 2016 and 2017 have been darkish years for Luck, I do not suppose I actually understood how darkish they actually have been. His shoulder was shot, his confidence was gone and Luck’s throwing coach Tom Home commented on how darkish it was.

“He could not even roll a soccer ball 20 yards,” Home instructed me. “It was an all or nothing.”

Andrew Luck was 53-33 because the Colts beginning quarterback. (Andy Lyons/Getty Photographs)

We spoke to greater than two dozen teammates, coaches, league executives, associates, rivals, and other people round faculty soccer and the NFL.

As for Luck himself?

He requested that our dialog that day over espresso stay confidential – which it would.

As for the podcast, he is considering it. He actually did. He hasn’t spoken publicly since leaving, aside from a quick interview with ESPN throughout the Nationwide Championship sport in early January.

However he lastly determined to refuse.

But the voices on this sequence shared story after story I had by no means heard, opening the curtain on one of the compelling NFL careers in latest reminiscence.

We wished to inform the story of Andrew Luck that has by no means been instructed, and we wished to reply this query: How did the best quarterback prospect since John Elway find yourself strolling away from the sport earlier than be 30?

Pay attention and discover out.

(Illustration by Adam Parata)


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