On August 24, 2019, Andrew Luck shocked the sports world when he announced that he was stepping away from the NFL. A three-time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Colts, Luck said that injuries were the main reason why he had decided to retire after just seven seasons and 94 games.
Phillip Rivers, the Colts' new starting quarterback, was halfway through the Chargers' preseason game against the Seahawks when he heard the news of Luck's retirement. A year later, Rivers is now tasked with helping the Colts get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2018, when Luck – that year's Comeback Player of the Year – led Indianapolis to the divisional round.
"I was walking off the field in a preseason game at halftime … somebody had gotten it, not a player, but somebody had gotten it when we were in the locker room," Rivers said, via Zak Keefer of The Athletic. "Somebody passed it along because we were already shifting gears to the Colts that week (the Chargers' Week 1 opponent). Certainly, everybody out there was surprised."
Luck's announcement came as such a shock that ESPN's Adam Schefter, the person who broke the news of Luck's retirement, began questioning his own reporting shortly after Tweeting the news.
"One of the first texts I received was from Matthew Hasselbeck (an ESPN analyst and Luck's former teammate with the Colts)," Schefter said on "The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz."
"And he said to me, 'Are you sure?' And I texted back 'Yes.' And he said 'I don't know about that … I spoke to Andrew yesterday and today and he never mentioned anything to me.' And so when Andrew Luck's friend, and teammate and backup quarterback texted me asking me if I was right, I have to say it made me a little bit uneasy."
Schefter, and the rest of the football world would shortly find out -- from Luck himself -- that his report was indeed accurate. With the news of his impending retirement all over social media, Luck decided to move up his previously planned press conference (initially set for Sunday, August 25) to immediately following the Colts' preseason game against the Bears.
Luck, who admitted that he was not properly dressed for the occasion (his parents, who had planned to be in attendance Sunday for the previously planned press conference, weren't on hand for Luck's actual retirement speech), confessed that the four-year cycle of "injury, pain, recovery, injury" had forced his decision to walk away from the game after six active seasons.
Luck received boos from some Colts fans who found out about the news during Saturday's preseason game. Schefter, meanwhile, also received flack for not allowing Luck to handle his retirement on his own terms. And while he doesn't regret his decision to honor the duties of his job while reporting the news of Luck's retirement, he added that he took no joy is breaking what may be the biggest story of his career to this point.
"It's a sad story, it's a shocking story," he said. "You've got a player who's about to turn 30-years-old in the prime of his career, who's great for the Colts, who's great for the Indianapolis, who's great for the National Football League, walk away prematurely because he was so worn down by everything that he had been through the previous year.
"From that point, there's zero joy taken in seeing a great player leave the game."
While his career may have ended prematurely, there is apparently a happy ending with regard to Luck. According to Keefer, Luck is currently happy and healthy after allowing his body to heal. Luck, his wife and his young daughter continue to live in Indianapolis. Earlier this offseason, he had dinner with Colts coach Frank Reich and Chris Ballard. Luck also kept tabs on his former team, watching them play and calling up some of his ex-teammates to catch up after games.
Two of Luck's closest ex-teammates, lineman Anthony Castonzo and tight end Jack Doyle, are convinced that the 30-year-old Luck has indeed thrown his last pass in the NFL. Oliver Luck, Andrew's father who recently served as the CEO of the now-defunct XFL, has not seen any desire from his son as it relates to making a comeback.
While Colts owner Jim Irsey hasn't entirely ruled out seeing Luck back under center at some point down the road, Ballard is not operating under any assumption that Luck may one day decide to change his mind.
"Look, Andrew's retired," Ballard said in February. "I think we all need to accept that. That's where he's at. He's retired."
Ballard, like most members of the Colts' organization, will never forget the events of August 24, 2019, when Luck joined the list of other great athletes who decided to walk away during their prime.
"It was all surreal, looking back on it," he said. "I was sad because we had been through so much together in terms of his rehab to get back from the shoulder."