Getty writer Zak Keefer of The Athletic attempted to answer why Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck retired before his 30th birthday.
The Indianapolis Colts have done everything they can to try to overcome the retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck in 2019. But despite potentially adding two Hall of Fame callers in the last two years, the Colts are still looking for their first playoff win since the end of the Luck era and a long-term solution behind center.
With the Colts still changing quarterbacks, writer Zak Keefer of The Athletic decided to take a look at Luck’s career and try to answer why “the best quarterback prospect since John Elway” left the NFL before his 30th birthday.
Keefer answered that question in a six-episode podcast series, which launched on July 11. At the end of the series, Keefer concluded that Luck retired early because of perspective and perfection.
“[After] all the interviews, all the reporting, the six episodes he spent listening to this series, one last question remains,” Keefer said. “Why did Andrew Luck retire so early?
“It comes down to two things: perspective and perfection.”
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Luck is The perfect soccer player, not the perfect quarterback.
One of the biggest overall themes throughout Keefer’s podcast series, which is available for free on Apple podcasts, was about how Luck enjoyed the entire game of soccer, especially the physical part. Stanford coach David Shaw shared many stories about Luck’s physical nature in college, including when he took a big hit on USC defensive back Shareece Wright after a loose ball in a game in 2010.
Soccer is a physical game and, at least in his mind, Luck was just one of the guys on the team.
“As a soccer player, he never thought he was more important than anyone else on the field. Luck wanted to take the hit, he needed to take the hit to show his teammates, to show his coaches, maybe even to show himself, that he would do anything to win,” Keefer said at the end of the podcast series. “But there’s a reason quarterbacks don’t take those kinds of hits.
“The hits wear them down over time. And Luck’s injury list is brutal to read even now.
Keefer revealed those injuries in great detail. In 2015, Luck suffered a lacerated kidney that caused him to urinate blood and a partially torn abdomen. During 2016, he played most of the season with a torn labrum and suffered at least one concussion.
Early in his career, he also tore cartilage in two ribs that required Luck to undergo painkiller injections.
“Luck’s quest to become this perfect soccer player left him as an imperfect quarterback, and it cost him,” Keefer said. “And the fact that it took the Colts six years, SIX YEARS, to have a decent offensive line didn’t help.”
The injury that broke Luck was a calf strain that developed into a posterior ankle impingement in 2019. Keefer described how Luck’s calf was causing him pain and team doctors didn’t understand why.
“At the end of the day, they beat the soccer out of him,” Keefer said.
More in life than soccer for Luck.
Luck broke almost every stereotype of NFL quarterbacks. He was a nerd in every sense of the word. He spent much of his childhood overseas and went to Stanford. During his playing career, he hosted a book club podcast.
In the third episode of the Luck podcast series, Colts reporter Stephen Holder of ESPN told a story about how the quarterback once read a book about concrete.
While the podcast series portrays Luck as being enamored with soccer early in his life, he clearly had other interests. Going through a long list of injuries and then getting married in 2019, Keefer argued that Luck gaining perspective was the second reason for his early retirement.
Keefer pointed to an answer Luck provided to a question about a month before his departure from the game as a clue to his additional perspective.
“To be the best quarterback I want to be, to help this team the way I want to help them, I can’t be … I’m not looking for average, and if I come out here in pain, I will. be average,” Luck told reporters. “I’ll feel like an average quarterback and I’ll be an average quarterback.
“That’s not good enough for me, that’s not good enough for this club.”
It’s almost as if Luck couldn’t be perfect, he didn’t want to play anymore.
“In his mind, he would sell himself and the team short,” Keefer said.
Luck also gave Keefer a very interesting answer when the staff writer asked him why he was smiling after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2018-19 playoffs. That ended up being Luck’s last game in the NFL.
“One thing I learned last year (2017) was that if my value as a human being was going to be tied to how I did, the outcome of a performance in a soccer game, then I was going to have, and pardon my French, a really crappy life,” Luck said.
Listen to Keefer’s entire podcast series on Luck’s early retirement.