By retiring on his own terms, Andrew Luck has solidified a unique legacy that serves as a blueprint for future athletes.
Let’s not mince words: Andrew Luck doesn’t owe anybody a damn thing.
His abrupt retirement at just 29-years old has a certain amount of shock value which makes it hard to stomach. Here’s a guy who seemingly had everything we’ve been led to believe is a mark of success. He’s a millionaire with a job exclusively held by only 31 other human beings on the planet and was prophecised to be among football gods when his career was over. Teams ‘Sucked For Luck’ in order to get a chance to draft him, his jersey was a top seller, he led dramatic playoff comebacks and sold millions of dollars worth of tickets and merchandise. Crowds roared for him, a prepackaged tailor-made Football Star.
Football Stars, as we’ve become more and more aware, wither and die. No matter how mammoth their name is, no one is bigger than the hand that feeds.
Luck retiring is an unprecedented victory in the age of player empowerment. It’s all about him in the most selfishly unselfish way possible. He’s prioritizing his health — both mental and physical — in ways we should be admiring, not admonishing. This is self-preservation at its finest, for the sake of himself and his family. Luck did what every knuckle-dragging keyboard warrior calling him out for retiring early dreams of doing: Walking out on your boss before they can walk out on you.
No one is immune to the brutality of the NFL as a business. Luck’s arrival in Indianapolis happened because the Colts cut Peyton Manning. His neck was so broken after over a decade of giving his entire body so that tickets could be sold and a stadium could be built, the Colts weren’t sure his latest surgery would take. So a future Hall of Famer was put out to pasture to make room for fresh meat.
In the seven years since, Luck has suffered torn cartilage in his ribs, a torn abdomen, a torn labrum, a lacerated kidney and at least one concussion that we know of. Would you sign up for another seven years of that at your job, or would you find other work?
Manning’s body broke, and while the biggest question at the time should have been whether or not he would ever have full motor functions again, the question we all asked was whether or not he’d be able to take a hit again. The NFL machine kept turning and we continued to be dazzled its flashing lights. For all he did, the stadium that romantics say Peyton Manning built is called Lucas Oil Stadium; they name streets, not arenas, after players.
Arguments will be had about what Luck’s legacy is when all is said and done, but it won’t be that.
The writing for this has been on the wall his entire life. Not becoming another cog in a machine has been something the entire Luck family has been preaching for years. Oliver Luck, Andrew’s father, advocated back in 2013 that the only thing an athlete should look out for is the athlete themselves.
“We always tell our student-athletes: Don’t let sports use you — you use it. You be selfish. You use it to get a free education, you use it to meet people. Don’t let it chew you up.”
That’s exactly what Luck has done.
He got out while the getting was still good and his body wasn’t completely broken. He went out on his own terms. No amount of Super Bowls or passing records can replace what Luck will gain in whatever good health he’s preserved for his future. That’s the legacy (and blueprint) he’s leaving behind and it’s just as important as a ring on a finger or numbers in a book.
Retiring isn’t the coward’s way out — Andrew Luck has won.