As a former aspiring NFL football player and college football All-American, I can tell you my reaction to Andrew Luck’s early retirement was one of great admiration, both for his courage and humility in stepping away from the game he loves. His insight into the last 6 years of his life as a professional quarterback resonated very deeply with me.
After 15 years of playing competitive organized football, enduring one serious and one mild concussion, a series of low to high grade ankle sprains, knee sprains and a shattered wrist, I must say, I tremendously appreciate Andrew Luck’s decision and I believe it is one that young people need to hear today. In my adult life, at the ripe age of 45, I currently question the long-term benefit of the game, which triggered boos from the Indianapolis Colts fan base as Andrew Luck departed Lucas Oil Stadium last week.
I, like Andrew Luck, feel daily the toll that my body has taken from those many years on the gridiron. I did not have “the honor” as he said in his press conference of becoming an NFL football player despite being scouted by the New England Patriots as a senior at Catholic University in 1996. However, despite my own personal disappointment in not making it at the highest level of play, I recognize now, having watched many former NFL players claim how the game has affected their own quality of life post their playing days and seeing the fallout of the many years of injuries and concussions on these players, that perhaps God was gifting and preserving me from far worse struggles and pain. As I like to say, God had a better plan for my life!
Beyond my own story, I would like to comment on Andrew Luck’s decision and why it is worthy of praise and not boos. The witness that he gave is not something that we often see today in sports. In an age when professional players greedily seem to hold out for more money or refuse to honor contracts that they made in an effort to make the most of their opportunities in the professional sports arena, a man, at the peak of his career, decides to walk away from something that would likely generate greater personal wealth, public adulation and honors which ultimately might have concluded with hallowing his name in the NFL Hall of Fame. With all this as a potentiality for this young man, he still confidently said with “great clarity” that he is walking away from the game he loves because he no longer had “joy” playing it. This is something for our young people of today to take serious note of.
There are far more important things than money, fame and athletic legacy. There is more to life than football and sports, yet the boos from the fan base in Indianapolis would indicate otherwise, still, Andrew Luck stands as a great departure from what is culturally accepted and demanded when it comes to our professional athletes. Yes, there are far greater things than sports such as a wife, family, children, physical and mental health, joy and peace of mind. All these things Andrew Luck pointed to or alluded to in his retirement address.
Beyond these above listed things, I see in Andrew Luck’s story, an even greater witness than his love and devotion to his family and future health and happiness. There is something quite virtuous in Andrew Luck’s decision. Some might say wisdom, but I say the virtues of courage, humility and justice are what is most admirable. He recognized that he needed to give to others what they are due first and he recognized in his own physical limitations, that he would not be able to give to the fans of Indianapolis, the ownership of the team and his fellow teammates what they are due, which is his very best. He recognized in all humility that he was suffering and his team would do the same if he continued. He also recognized that his decision would not be a very popular one, but one, which he needed to make. So the public display of courage is worth so much as this is not seen very often and is very devalued in this day and age.
At the press conference, he admitted that he was “hurt” by the boos from the Indianapolis fans. Did you hear that Indianapolis? You hurt the man who allowed himself to be continually hurt for your enjoyment and entertainment. Shame on you Indianapolis Colts fan base! You don’t deserve to have such a good man. Yet, in his great humility, the former All-Pro quarterback still thanks you. Even as he departs your over indulged fantasy football world, he thanks you for allowing him the privilege to lead your team. This humble witness sounds quite familiar to us as Christians.
Well done Andrew Luck! Enjoy your retirement and the next chapter in your young life. Thank you for your honest and integrity filled witness!
Your brother in Christ,