Column: Luck should be able to go out on own terms

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck shocked the sports world on Saturday night, when he made the decision to retire from the National Football League at the age of 29.

After six seasons in the league, Luck — one of the best quarterbacks statistically since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2012 — chose to hang up the cleats.

ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news during the Colts' preseason game against the Bears and by the end the Indianapolis "fans" — if you can call them that — vociferously booed Luck as he walked off the field for the last time as an active player.

How anyone can attack Luck's agonizing decision to leave the game he's played since he was a little kid is beyond me.

He was attacked on social media, because of course he was. We live in a world of keyboard warriors who have very little idea of the difficulty of his choice. Scrolling through Twitter last night, there were so many posts about how well-compensated Luck is and that's a reason to keep playing, injuries be damned. There were a lot too about his toughness, most from people who have never done anything athletic in their lives.

His peers, of course, were stunned, but to a man, all seemed to be behind him and his decision.

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As football fans, we think sometimes that these players, because of their size or their ability to throw or catch a football, are superheroes. But it also helps to remember these men are human, with the same insecurities as anyone else. After six years of dealing with the injuries, Luck made the hardest decision an athlete ever has to make — when to walk away.

Luck is the latest in a line of early retirements. New England Patriot tight end and three-time Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski decided he was done earlier this year, also at 29. Calvin Johnson retired from the Detroit Lions at age 30, putting up more than 1,000 receiving yards in his last season.

History shows some of the top players in NFL history have left before anyone thought it was time, too. Cleveland's Jim Brown retired at 29 in 1966, leading the league in rushing and touchdowns the year before. Chicago's Gale Sayers left in 1972 at 29 after injuries derailed what ended up as a Hall of Fame career. Detroit's Barry Sanders was second all-time in rushing yards when he hung it up in 1999, after a nine-year pro career.

Luck has been one of the toughest, yet oft-injured quarterbacks in the league. He battled injuries ranging from a sprained shoulder to a lacerated kidney, and missed the entire 2017 season after shoulder surgery. This year, he was dealing with a calf and ankle injury that had him out of action the entire preseason.

Luck got married to his college sweetheart, Nicole Pechanec, in March and the two are expecting their first child. And the Colts, to their credit, could have recouped nearly $25 million for his choice and they didn't.

At the end of the day, it wasn't about the money or the fame or anything like that. Football just wasn't fun anymore for Luck. The constant pain, injuries and the rehabiliation of those injuries became too much physically, but more importantly, mentally. And as football fans, of the Colts or any of the other teams, we need to realize these men are human, with families and lives to live, as healthy as possible, after the pads come off.


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