We’re all familiar with the prototype of the aging star athlete who holds onto the game too long. He’s built his identity around being an athlete, and he can’t imagine life away from his sport. He can’t wrap his head around being an Average Joe and can’t bring himself to hang ’em up. Examples quickly come to mind: Brett Favre, Mike Tyson, Shaquille O’Neal.
But every once in a while, an athlete takes the opposite course of action. Due to circumstances like injuries, personal convictions, or the psychological toll of the all-encompassing, high-pressure pro sports environment, some players retire while they still are considered in their prime. They could clearly earn millions more and remain on their platform for years to come, but they instead choose to retire and move on to the next phase of life. Though such a decision is understandable, reflecting on these guys’ careers often leaves us wondering, What if?
We’re talking about this, of course, because Andrew Luck shocked the NFL last weekend by announcing his retirement. Luck, 29, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, a four-time Pro Bowler, and the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year last season. Indeed, he had his best season as a pro in 2018, and he looked poised to lead the Colts into Super Bowl contention this year. But injuries had taken their toll on both his body and mind, and he was simply ready for something new.
“I’ve been stuck in this process,” said Luck. “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football. This is not an easy decision. It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.”
Luck’s retirement got us thinking about other athletes who retired in their prime.