Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

29-year-old Colts QB Andrew Luck retired from the NFL on Saturday night, saying constant injuries have taken away his love for the game.

Why it matters: This is the most shocking retirement American sports has seen since the 1990s, when Barry Sanders quit football at age 30 (1999) and Michael Jordan left the NBA for the first time (1993).

"For the last four years or so, I've been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab — injury, pain, rehab — and it's been unceasing, unrelenting. I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It's taken my joy of this game away."
I've come to the proverbial fork in the road, and I made a vow to myself that if I ever did again, I'd choose me, in a sense. ... This is not an easy decision. It's the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me."
— Andrew Luck's retirement statement

The big picture: 29-year-old quarterbacks don't just leave the NFL — especially those on track to earn as much as $500 million in future salary and end their careers as all-time greats.

  • Add in the surreal scene on Saturday — news broke on Twitter during the Colts-Bears game, forcing Luck to make the announcement at a hastily-assembled press conference rather than on Sunday, as originally planned — and you have a rare "where were you when…" moment.

What they're saying:

  • "People walk away from lucrative careers ... or stress-filled jobs .... because they realize that what once seemed so appealing was now getting in the way of real happiness and fulfillment. ... Money won't buy you happiness but it can buy you freedom, and so Luck, with all his millions, exercised his." (Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports)
  • "There are basically two ways to react upon learning the news of an athletic retirement: aww or whoa! The first reaction goes out with love for the world's graceful agers … Others [are] the unexpected departures, the whoa!s, the goodbyes that seem like a glitch." (Katie Baker, The Ringer)

The bottom line: This isn't the end of Andrew Luck. It's the beginning of the rest of his life. (Though, honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if we see him back under center in the future.)

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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