THE LOVE OF THE GAME (And why walking away is hard)

A tribute to Andrew Luck’s decision written by

Delorean Fleetwood

Love can be defined in a number of ways. We can exhibit love toward our families. We show love to our spouses. In our modern day society, we show love to the teams and sports that we passionately support and love.

In sports circles, it’s a common trait to have passion and support when you are a fan. As a player? Even more so. However, what goes on in the locker room is where passion is truly born. Sure, we the fans, can recall the moment where it all started. For the individuals we support, their passion is driven and born on the field of battle. Our knowledge of the game itself may be vast and wide, but it pales in comparison to the warriors we loudly support. Without the fans, the player has nothing to which he or she might attribute to. Without the players we are gathered to ancient concrete mammoths that cannot speak the tales of love in sports that we so proudly pass on with each generation of fans.

Being able to put aside something that you’ve built, in one form or another for most of your life, is one of the hardest of all acts of love. To put down one’s sword on the field of battle and acknowledge what lies beyond the field of battle. To leave behind the splendor and color that rushes eternally into ones mind. To realize that something holds a far greater purpose than ourselves. To move on to the next stage of life, believing and hoping, that a new chapter or calling is ready for us. To make an act of sacrifice, even when thought to be the worst possible decision at the time, to further exemplify leadership and set an example in dark times…..this exhibits the love of the game.

But to make this decision while still considered on top of your craft… is it easy? Absolutely not. Emotionally filled? Without a doubt. No one can leave the glamour and glory behind while in the prime of one’s life unless a far greater good exists… especially within the individual’s circumstances.

Andrew Luck recently announced his retirement during a 2019 preseason game for the Indianapolis Colts. Luck was an All American Quarterback out of Stanford. The Cardinal last saw such generational talent at QB in 1982, when Hall of Famer John Elway was leading the Stanford offense. It was Elway, who coincidentally, was drafted by the Colts in 1982, (while they still played in Baltimore) a decision that led him to refuse signing with them.

30 years later, it was Luck’s turn for stardom. At 6’4″, Luck was more than just a tall physical specimen. Luck was labeled from day one every bit as cerebral as Peyton Manning was considered coming out of Tennessee. After all, Stanford is the “Ivy League of the West Coast”.

Luck’s leadership was never called into question. As an Oregon Ducks fan, I witnessed Luck throw an interception multiple times against my team. His dedication to make the tackle and prevent an interception return for a touchdown always stuck out in my mind. He led by example on AND off the field. Something everyone one of us needs.

Luck, however, wasn’t lucky enough to avoid injury during his 7 year NFL tenure. Legendary Green Bay Packer QB Brett Favre was a shining example in the league for “playing hurt”. However, Favre never had to play with a lacerated kidney. Nor did he have to miss an entire season due to injury- something that would be considered unthinkable during his playing days- like Luck did in 2017. In the end, however, the repeated injuries he absorbed had taken their toll. With that in mind, he eventually realized his future and what was truly important to him. A smart and educated man, Andrew Austen Luck, laid down his sword, and hung up his cleats. In return, he took what was given to him and would proceed to cash out, like a long day at the tables in Caesers Palace.

Luck was certainly what you would call a “darkhorse”. He rebounded from an injury plagued 2017, and returned to form, winning the 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Luck gave it his all during the seven years with his Indianapolis Colts family, who cherished his leadership and production. For seven long years he stuck with it, even when management refused time and time again to provide the solid protection Peyton once had. The same issues that ultimately led to Peyton missing 2011 due to injury, continued to haunt Luck his entire career with the Colts. After finally realizing that his requests to get the protection he needed and help Colts win a Super Bowl were going unanswered, he gave his final act of leadership and sacrifice. He would retire. He knew fully well the same issues and problems that had haunted him since 2011 would remain unfixable. The bells finally tolled for the career of Andrew Austen Luck and signified the end of an era in Indianapolis, Indiana.

An old room mate of mine once told me that the Colts have a long history of such mistreatment towards their star quarterbacks. Johnny Unitas ended his career with the San Diego Chargers. Manning would later sign with Denver in 2012. He went retired while on top after winning Super Bowl 50 in 2016. Bert Jones was a phenomenal talent, but his career was cut short due to lack of protection. Such mistreatment of Luck certainly comes as no surprise considering the history of the franchise.

My father once told me that the Offensive Line is the King on the chessboard. Every conversation involving arguably the greatest dynasty in all of sports, like the 60’s Packers under Lombardi, involved their Hall of Fame line. Forrest Gregg is the greatest Right Tackle that ever played. Jerry Kramer recently, after many years, got elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The greatest dynasty, be it college or pro, always had an offensive line that protected their star quarterback.

In a world, where some individuals are born to a toxic family, one has to make a tough decision: Do you stick around, and risk injury, with life long consequences, or do you love them from a distance, and remove yourself from a toxic situation? Luck chose the latter. He knew the ownership in Indy was toxic for him. Does that mean you don’t love or care for them? No, of course not. Luck gave it his all to the family he had in Indianapolis, since 2012. Their inept family of ownership was unable to realize their mistakes and actions, leading to a final farewell. Luck’s decision was one born of sacrifice and once again proving leadership to the very end both on and off the field.

Andrew Luck you will be missed. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. Your leadership is forever remembered by your decision.

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