A Saturday night preseason game should be a slow news story for football fans. ESPN’S Adam Schefter changed that by Tweeting out that the Indianapolis Colts’ Quarterback and former number-one overall pick Andrew Luck is retiring. Luck exited the game to unfortunate boos and a tear-jerking press conference. The Colts legend received admiration from so many people for his decision to step away and embrace a healthy life outside of football. Despite the shock, Luck is not the first big name player to retire with multiple quality-years left in the tank. Other big names, along with Luck, have hung their cleats up early.
Calvin Johnson- The receiver known as “Megatron” retired in March of 2016 after nine NFL seasons. Johnson became a god as the NFL fantasy craze grew. Johnson walked away on top, marking his sixth-straight Pro Bowl and racking up 1,214 receiving yards. Six straight years of Pro Bowls and thousand-yard seasons? Why walk away? Johnson cited similar issues that Luck did, saying he couldn’t physically give 100 percent and felt his body breaking down more and more. Johnson is an NFL great. He broke Jerry Rice’s single season receiving record and paired with Matt Stafford to stabilize the Lions. “Megatron” probably had another four seasons left, but it’s the player’s decision.
“I’d thought I’d retire based off how my body felt, how I felt mentally, and how those things come together,” said Johnson regarding his retirement.
Barry Sanders- Sanders is Detroit Lions football. He was chosen third by the Lions in 1989 after winning the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma State and electrifying the city. In all ten of his NFL seasons, Sanders was a Pro Bowler, as thousand-yard seasons and long runs became regular. Sanders has a long list of achievements including a two thousand-yard season a year before he retired. After a down year for the Lions, Sanders decided to retire; he did this the day before training camp in 1999. Sanders cited loss of love for the game as a reason for his exit. The fans did not take Sanders leaving well. Perhaps the greatest shame is that Sanders was on pace to be the NFL’s all-time leading rusher once he passed Walter Payton. Detroit has now moved on and embraced Sanders, retiring his number and respecting the player’s decision.
“I struggled with it all offseason and really waited till the last minute. Had things been different with team, I don’t know. I felt like that was my time, I had enough, I had played the game long enough,” Sanders said in a statement regarding his retirement.
Jim Brown- At Barry Sanders’ Hall of Fame ceremony, his father made sure to mention he still thought Jim Brown was the greatest running back of all time. Jim Brown played nine years for the Cleveland Browns (from 1957-1965) and is responsible for the franchise’s last championship in 1964. Brown was an eight-time rushing leader, Rookie of the year, three-time MVP, champion, and yet he retired at the height of his career. Brown retired early as he took an interest in acting and activism. His retirement occurred while filming “The Dirty Dozen” after pressure form Art Modell to return to football. Brown’s activism included him showing great support for Muhammad Ali during a difficult 1960s and 1970s. His activism touched lives of all kinds ranging from gang members to athletes. The Cleveland Browns still bring back Jim Brown yearly to inspire new players. Other athletes, like Lebron James, have noted Brown as someone they look up to.
“I want more mental stimulation, and I want a hand in the struggle taking place in this country,” Brown stated about his retirement.
Andrew Luck- This a complex situation to say the least. After news broke of his early retirement, Luck had to attend a press conference he clearly wasn’t prepared for. Luck described a cycle of injury and recovery over the past four years as a reason for his decision. The most recent and serious injuries were a lacerated kidney, a partially torn abdominal muscle in 2015, and a torn labrum in 2017. Luck missed the entirety of the 2017 season with the torn labrum, and at times, it was reported that Luck was never going to return. He has been a “Golden Boy” from the start who made four Pro Bowls and highlighted multiple playoff runs, including a trip to the AFC Championship. Luck was booed off the field Saturday as fans reacted to the reported retirement. The Colts’ fans being upset is tough situation. Overall, it’s Luck’s decision, and you can’t blame him for wanting to walk away from a violent game. On the flip side, the franchise abandoned Peyton Manning for Luck, and the timing is poor. Despite this, Luck is choosing family and health over football. If he says it’s time, then it is.
“After 2016, when I played in pain and wasn’t able to regularly practice, I made a promise to myself to not go down that path again. The only way to go forward is to remove myself from football,” said Luck referring to his retirement.