This is a transcript of episode 5 of The Athletic‘s podcast miniseries “Luck,” on the rise and sudden retirement of former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Find the series in audio type on The Athletic app or wherever you hearken to podcasts.

Chris Ballard: Yeah, I didn’t know Andrew but. I imply, I’d watched him play as part of the Kansas City group in 2013.

Zak Keefer: This is Chris Ballard, who was employed because the Colts’ common supervisor in January of 2017. He’d spent the final 4 years within the Kansas City Chiefs’ entrance workplace, the place he’d witnessed a few of Andrew Luck’s most interesting moments from afar and a few from up shut.

Ballard: I watched him play and wrestle for 3 quarters towards us, after which within the fourth quarter completely come alive.

Keefer: Including the unbelievable 28-point deficit that Luck erased in that Wild Card playoff recreation his second yr.

Ballard: I feel we have been up 38-10, after which he simply received on a very scorching streak and got here again and had one of many best comebacks in NFL historical past. So I had super respect for him, the participant.

Keefer: But it wasn’t that comeback that caught with Ballard essentially the most. It’s what Luck stated — and what he didn’t — after the Chiefs beat him up in a 2016 common season recreation. Despite dropping their beginning quarterback within the third quarter, the Chiefs left with a simple 30-14 win, completely proudly owning the Colts up entrance on either side of the ball, and Luck, per normal, took the brunt of the punishment. He was sacked six occasions and hit 12 occasions.

Ballard: I’ll always remember in ’16, we play him, and we had gotten after him fairly good. And after the sport I used to be up within the press field doing work for some — you understand, attempting to get exercises and gamers set for that Monday, as a result of we had a few gamers injured within the recreation. And I keep in mind watching Andrew’s press convention.

Reporter: What was the premise of the offensive struggles right this moment?

Andrew Luck: Me. I do know I struggled. I feel each offensive participant within the room seems like we let one another down.

Ballard: He simply — you understand, you’re asking questions, “Andrew, you were hit multiple times in this game. What do you attribute those to?” And Andrew stated, “You know what? I’ve got to get rid of the ball. That’s my fault. I’ve got to get rid of the ball.”

Luck: Yeah, yeah, and guys are going to work their butts off. If a holding is known as, you understand, guys are straining. Guys are doing a fantastic job, I feel, up entrance to permit these performs to occur. But it’s not simply penalties on issues, it’s dropped snaps, it’s interceptions, it’s missed alternatives. There’s much more than an O-lineman working his butt off to assist shield.

Ballard: You know, “Andrew, you had a pick here — can’t remember what quarter it was,” and I keep in mind it was as a result of what play we had actually pressured him on. And, “That’s my fault. I’ve got to throw a more accurate pass.”

Reporter: What do you assume occurred there? Did he slip on the route?

Luck: Good break by the nook, and doubtless not an excellent ball or choice, for that matter. And he made a heck of a play. One of these you wish you can have again.

Ballard: And I simply keep in mind sitting there considering, “Here’s a guy that we just beat up physically. He just owns it all. He takes all and relieves all the pressure off everybody else around him and never blamed anyone else.” And I’ll always remember strolling downstairs and telling, I feel it was Coach (Reid) and John (Dorsey), “Hey, man, I just witnessed one of the most unbelievable press conferences, in terms of leadership, that I’d ever seen.”

Keefer: And frankly, that’s the way it went for Andrew Luck for many of 2016. He wasn’t capable of persistently apply. He was dwelling within the coaching room, hiding the ache from the general public, even his personal teammates, and all of the whereas the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder was getting worse, a lot worse. The injury he did to his shoulder that season would complicate his rehab the next spring and push him to the brink of retirement. After Ballard was employed, he pledged time and again, “It’ll never be about one guy.” He vowed to get Luck the assistance he’d want for the subsequent part of his profession.

Ballard: Let me say this, as a result of Andrew’s a fantastic participant, however it should by no means be about one man. It won’t ever be about one man. It’s about all 53 males in that locker room. It’s about all 63 males, together with the apply squad that we have now. It won’t ever be about one particular person. It will at all times be concerning the group. Is he a great piece? Absolutely. But he’s simply one of many 53 males that we have now to go win with.

Keefer: That similar month, Ballard’s $140 million franchise quarterback had undergone surgical procedure on his throwing shoulder. And what nobody knew on the time, he wouldn’t play soccer for one more 19 months.

Ballard: You know, Andrew was not in a great place. Physically, he had simply had surgical procedure, and bodily, he wasn’t in a great place. I’ll always remember our first assembly, and Andrew got here in and he had his shoulder in a sling. I feel he was two weeks post-op. I might inform he was somewhat anxious and nervous, and he had a listing of issues he wished to speak about. Finally, he begins speaking. I stated, “Put down the list.” I stated, “Can we talk and get to know each other? Let’s do that first, and then we can hammer through everything we’ve got to hammer through. But let’s get to know each other.” You know, the one factor is, I spotted straight away, is that I used to be going to must construct belief. I knew that was going to take time, and my actions towards Andrew have been large. My actions going ahead for him have been going to be large in constructing that sort of relationship and belief that wanted to be constructed. But bodily and mentally, he was not in an actual good place after I walked within the door.

Keefer: The place he was at is likely one of the lowest moments of his complete profession. This is “Luck,” Episode 5, The Return.

READ MORE: Keefer: explains the genesis of the “Luck” podcast

Ballard: I feel should you return all the best way to ’15 when he first was initially harm, I feel I used to be round when Andrew did his new contract. And the one factor that I actually love about him, and we’re nonetheless very shut, however one factor I actually love about Andrew is his look after different individuals. You know, that’s not solely a constructive, however that will also be a adverse. But Andrew doesn’t wish to let anyone down. And his care and empathy for others is as sturdy as any participant I’ve ever been round.

Keefer: Luck spent the final six weeks of the 2017 season within the Netherlands, slogging by rehab eight hours a day, 5 days per week. On Thanksgiving, he purchased a turkey from the native butcher and tried to carve it. In his downtime, he poured by books, hoping to provide his thoughts an escape. He tried to study Dutch. He was 28 years outdated, and in plenty of methods, he was misplaced.

Luck: I wish I might inform you as a result of that will imply I might inform myself.

Keefer: Luck got here again to Indy late that December of 2017, and the Colts put him in entrance of reporters to elucidate this mysterious rehab he was doing. Why the Netherlands? And who was this unnamed coach and what precisely have been they doing?

Luck: The sources that he had over there that weren’t obtainable right here — some individuals and another issues.

Keefer: As evasive as Luck was about his bodily rehab, he opened up concerning the psychological struggles he was coping with. During that press convention, I requested him straight up, what was his lowest level?

Luck: Uhh, the low level? There was a time, most likely a pair weeks into being away from right here — perhaps early December — that was fairly tough for me to type of see the constructive in issues and received by that. I suppose I see the constructive and issues somewhat extra now.

Keefer: Eight months later, standing on the sector after a apply at coaching camp, sweat dripping down his face, shoulder pads nonetheless on, Andrew Luck and I relived essentially the most tough yr of his profession. We spoke for 40 minutes, simply the 2 of us, and it was essentially the most open and essentially the most trustworthy he’d ever been in an interview. “I was a sad, miserable human,” he advised me. “I was not nice to myself, nor was I nice to anybody else. I was a miserable S.O.B. to be around. I was nervous. And I was scared.” “Scared of what?” I requested. “I was scared in my core, in my insides,” he stated. “There was a time I was very scared about football and about my place in football.” Then he stated this, “If I wasn’t having fun playing football, I’d quit. I’d retire.” The evening he retired, I might return to that dialog and what he advised me that day.

Luck: I’ve been caught on this course of. I haven’t been capable of dwell the life I wish to dwell. Taking the enjoyment out of this recreation, and after 2016, the place I performed in ache and was unable to repeatedly apply, I made a vow to myself that I might not go down that path once more.

Keefer: The greatest downside with Luck’s shoulder was that he tried to play by it for many of 2015, for all of 2016. It wasn’t the surgical procedure and it wasn’t the snowboarding accident that Luck had someplace alongside the best way, and later admitted to. After he made it again from the Netherlands, Luck tried to return early within the 2017 season. He threw at apply someday in October, respiration momentary life right into a season that was slipping away. The downside with that? He made it worse. He tried to throw by the ache. He began mendacity to himself, and his stubbornness bled into anger. He thought he might will himself by the rehab. “I convinced myself I could force things to happen, and I paid for it,” he advised me. He was within the darkest part of his soccer life, uncertain if he’d ever play once more. So Luck’s agent and uncle, Will Wilson, made a cellphone name.

Tom House: His agent reached out and requested if I might take him on as a consumer to see if I might repair his shoulder so he might throw once more.

Keefer: That’s Tom House. House is a former large league pitcher who grew to become a famend throwing guru after he retired. He helped deliver Drew Brees again from a devastating damage to his throwing shoulder, and within the years that adopted, began to work with among the perfect quarterbacks in soccer. Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, and extra lately, Dak Prescott and Justin Herbert. Wilson known as House within the winter of 2018, hoping he might deliver Andrew Luck again from shoulder hell. Truth be advised, they have been operating out of choices.

House: If you communicate with anyone or work with anyone that’s in power ache, being optimistic or joyful or having enjoyable is just not actually potential. You sort of resent what you was once due to the place you’re. And I feel the primary couple of months, that was sort of the best way he checked out issues. He felt like he had let his group down. He felt like he had let the fanbase down, the possession. He had a really particular relationship with the proprietor. He was mainly, not solely was he hurting, he felt like he was letting all people down. He performed harm for a great three years. He had a surgical procedure and a foul rehab and was simply in ache, it doesn’t matter what he did. He actually couldn’t even roll a soccer 20 yards. There was no gentle on the finish of the tunnel. He was buried within the tunnel, and he was getting zero suggestions from something.

Keefer: And what House discovered early on, Andrew Luck was in contrast to any consumer he’d ever had.

House: The preliminary console was unusual. I’d by no means run throughout somebody that would end my sentences earlier than they received out of my mouth. I don’t know the way a lot you understand about him, however he is perhaps the brightest human being, not simply quarterback, however one of many smartest human beings ever been round, to some extent the place it was virtually awkward attempting to teach him. While he was very outgoing verbally, he’s actually shy as an individual, and it simply appeared like every part turned inward on him. I feel he and I, we received alongside good. He thought I used to be somewhat goofy, and I advised him to his face that I knew he was goofy.

Keefer: House was definitely completely different, quirky in his personal method, and because it turned out, his experience was precisely what Andrew Luck wanted. It wasn’t only a bodily rehab, however a psychological one as effectively.

House: With each elite athlete that comes our method, with what we name a star profile. It would possibly come from mechanics, however they’re going to (get) purposeful power (coaching), psychological, emotional, vitamin and sleep. So I handled him similar to each athlete that comes our method. And the one factor that he was very reluctant to do was something that needed to do together with his psychological, emotional make-up. I feel he put it off and he put it off and he put it off and he put it off, till truly the primary day that we labored collectively up in Stanford, I met him at their home up there, and I feel he excused himself to go to the lavatory and went within the lavatory and took the take a look at proper on premise after I confirmed up. As that as a place to begin, there have been issues in his profile that sort of indicated what he was going by. There have been additionally some issues that — the beginning profile itself is an perception instrument. It’s how he sees himself, not how I noticed him, not how (his spouse) Nicole noticed him, not how the Colts noticed him, however how he noticed himself, and I feel we hit nearer to dwelling than he realized while you checked out him.

Keefer: House’s was a wholly completely different method, and early on the coach advised the QB, who’d been mentally overwhelmed down from years of ache and misplaced hope, one thing he desperately wanted to listen to.

House: I advised him if it wasn’t structural, if it wasn’t one thing that required one other surgical procedure, that I used to be very optimistic that we are able to make it work. And I stated, “The support you’re going to get from me, with mechanics and the functional strength that we do, the stuff that you’re going to get from your conditioning coaches,” not solely with the group however with what he was doing independently, I stated, “I think your chances are real good, but again, it’s going to be different. We’re not going to look for an outcome until you’ve got a process that gives you a better chance for that outcome.”

Keefer: The course of was odd, even Luck thought so at first, however House’s plan was grounded in science and it was backed by outcomes. His expertise with Brees, whose damage was much more extreme than Luck’s, helped present a path throughout the rehab. House was well-known for serving to pitchers come again from damage and really enhance their velocity. His secret? It began with a coaching technique that included utilizing weighted balls. So for the primary a number of months of the rehab, House didn’t even let Luck throw an NFL soccer. He as a substitute had him progress from tennis balls to weighted balls to smaller highschool footballs.

House: Five months to get him to be pain-free, we didn’t contact a soccer for that complete time. All we did was prepare with weighted balls and tennis rackets and (smaller) footballs, all actually cross-specific stuff.

Keefer: House needed to persuade Luck that endurance was very important. He couldn’t hurry the method. Every single step mattered. And for starters, Luck wanted to cease mendacity to himself. In his phrases, he wanted to cease in search of the silver bullet, as a result of there wasn’t one.

House: It was actually getting worn out within the media. They stored saying, “When’s he going to throw a football? When’s he going to throw a football?” And we knew, from my analysis, that should you might throw a one-pound ball 50 miles an hour, you can throw a soccer 50 yards. There was a correlation there.

Keefer: Luck was on his method again, even when nobody moreover House might see it on the time, and even when there have been a number of fast detours alongside the best way.

House: I don’t do effectively with tardiness or with an athlete being late, so I used to be up there and I flew up early within the morning, as much as Stanford, and was truly ready for him within the Stanford weight room. And he texted me he was going to be quarter-hour late — which is all I ask. If you’re going to be late, simply let me know. And I stated, “That’s great, but what’s causing you to be late?” Well, it seems he was driving his bike from his home and glided by a area of children enjoying soccer, and you understand he loves soccer. He thinks soccer is the attractive recreation. He stopped and performed 15 or 20 minutes, performed soccer with 12-year-olds. If that may inform a narrative about what a man is made up by, that’s Andrew Luck. Got together with 12-year-olds and he received together with a 75-year-old and every part in between.

Keefer: The turning level got here that spring in Manhattan Beach, Calif., the place Luck was staying together with his left sort out and shut good friend Anthony Castonzo. One morning, they hopped on Google Maps and located the closest soccer area they might discover. An outdated teammate from Stanford joined Luck for the exercise, as did House’s nephew, and it was the primary pain-free throwing session he’d had in virtually three years.

House: For all intents and functions, that junior excessive area would possibly as effectively have been the Superdome. He threw nothing however dimes all day lengthy, and I keep in mind we have been strolling again from the sector to the place his buddy’s condominium was. He was very talkative, was smiling. I stated to myself, “OK, I’ve got myself a happy 12-year-old right now. I hope he can maintain it.”

Keefer: A couple of months later, Luck returned to Indianapolis a distinct particular person and a distinct quarterback than he’d final left it. His shoulder was working once more, and his confidence was slowly starting to return. In early June, on the group’s minicamp, Luck threw in entrance of the media for the primary time in eight months. He spoke afterward of a renewed optimism, of a perception that he’d be able to go from the primary day of coaching camp.

Luck: More quick time period is to be able to go for coaching camp, to have the ability to, not simply take part, however get higher, get the group higher. Go, see what we are able to make this yr’s Colts.

Keefer: But after all of the setbacks during the last 18 months, after all of the false optimism, after all of the doubts, phrases mattered little. Luck wanted to get again on the sector, and he knew it.

Stephen Holder: Until we actually received on the market and noticed him take that first snap below heart, it actually was not actual till you truly noticed it.

Keefer: This is my longtime colleague, Stephen Holder, who lined the saga for The Indianapolis Star and later, The Athletic.

Holder: There have been so many begins and stops that there was no assumption, definitely not on my half, that it was going to work and that he’d be OK or that he’d play effectively. Like, we had no expectations. So I keep in mind the primary apply, he comes on the market and he’s Andrew Luck! It was unbelievable. I believed for positive, for positive, he would have some struggles and it might take time. I’m telling you, from day one, he seemed just about like himself. Now, I do assume he had some rust. Early within the common season, he wasn’t fairly on the similar stage, and so they known as performs somewhat in another way. There have been plenty of fast, shorter passes. It wasn’t actually opening it up. But by midseason, I feel he had mainly taken all of the governor off of that shoulder, and he was letting it rip. He was Andrew Luck once more. You know, while you discuss the place he was within the, I might say, the autumn of 2017 to the autumn of 2018, it’s actually evening and day. And evening and day is an effective way of placing it, as a result of, frankly, it was the darkest level, I feel maybe of his life.

Keefer: The one one who noticed all of it up shut was Jacoby Brissett, who crammed in for Luck at quarterback throughout the 2017 season after being traded by the Patriots six days earlier than the opener. The two quarterbacks didn’t know one another earlier than that and hardly knew one another throughout that season.

Jacoby Brissett: I feel that yr, that offseason, when he got here again after he went on IR, he got here again and it was simply, we have been like, “If we’re going to be here with each other, we might as well…” You know, that sort of factor. We simply slowly begin speaking and speaking, after which, simply me being there for him, and similar for him being there for me. And then we sort of simply received alongside after which the connection sort of progressed from there. I positively don’t assume he was there mentally. He was at all times engaged on this and rehabbing this. I imply I barely knew him on the time, however you can simply at all times see he seemed annoyed.

Keefer: During a prolonged chat this spring, I requested Brissett, who’s now backing up Deshaun Watson in Cleveland, if he thinks Luck critically thought-about strolling away after the horrors of 2017.

Brissett: I imply, I’ve had the dialog with him. It wouldn’t have stunned me. I imply, simply seeing him, he was disgruntled, and simply being on this league for some time now, you understand, the fixed of that stuff, it sort of weighs on you, for positive. And clearly, I didn’t know him beforehand till that yr, so I can solely think about the frustration he was going by. And I imply, he was the No. 1 choose and he’s the franchise man. He’s the second coming to Peyton Manning, all these issues most likely weighed on him somewhat bit.

Keefer: Meanwhile, Ballard was reshaping a roster that had fallen off significantly in expertise. In February on the NFL Combine, we requested him: how assured was he that Luck would make it again?

Ballard: The one factor we is not going to do with Andrew is we is not going to skip a step. Every step that he’s taking proper now has a objective behind it, and he’s entering into the proper route. Do I’ve any doubt that he’s going to be prepared? No, I don’t.

Keefer: Trust me, it was a gutsy assertion on the time, contemplating the furor Ballard would have confronted if Luck hit one other setback. Colts followers, keep in mind, have been nonetheless doubtful. They hadn’t forgotten Jim Irsay’s false guarantees earlier than the 2017 season. But a month later, Ballard doubled down, buying and selling out of the third choose within the draft again to 6, assured that his group didn’t want a quarterback. Teams even known as him, asking if Luck was obtainable in a commerce. Ballard laughed them off.

Ballard: Look, we had some calls final yr on the commerce deadline, and I simply — come on, man. I’m not these critically. We’re not buying and selling Andrew Luck. I’m not placing that on my résumé.

Keefer: The Colts have been additionally a group in transition. (Chuck) Pagano had been fired. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had reneged on his deal to turn into the subsequent head coach, paving the best way for (Frank) Reich to take over.

Ballard: I’ll always remember, like, you keep in mind in December when he went away, after which he got here again, and sadly, we needed to let go of Chuck. Then we went by the teaching search, after which Josh made his choice to not come. And I’ll always remember I talked to Andrew proper after that time, and he advised me — he stated, “Chris, I’ll be back. You can bet I’ll be back.” And I believed him. I did. And for no matter cause, I simply heard conviction in his voice that he was going to be again, and he was going to be himself and he was going to play good soccer.

Keefer: After years of overlooking the offensive line, that is how determined Colts followers have been for cover: After Ballard took Notre Dame All-American Quenton Nelson sixth total, the primary time the Colts had taken an offensive guard within the first spherical in over three a long time, followers cheered like hell. A monster to assist shield the franchise quarterback, lastly.

Ballard: Look, our predominant focus was to verify we received our fronts — get some younger expertise on the fronts to enhance each of these areas, and I feel we did that.

Keefer: August 2018. After months of hell that took Andrew Luck from Indianapolis to the Netherlands to California and again, the Colts’ franchise quarterback opened coaching camp with none throwing restrictions. All the work he did with House, each bodily and psychological, had paid off. And proper off the bat, he seemed like himself once more. But the questions lingered, as he moved by the preseason, how his shoulder would maintain up throughout video games, how would it not maintain up over the course of the yr? Even Luck couldn’t know for positive.

Brian Schottenheimer: Well, it was cool for me as a result of — you received’t keep in mind this, most individuals don’t. I keep in mind it simply because it was such a particular second for me, however we performed them out in Seattle within the very first preseason recreation.

Keefer: Brian Schottenheimer was the Colts’ quarterbacks coach in 2016 and 2017, earlier than being employed because the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator forward of the 2018 season. That’s the place the Colts opened the preseason that yr.

Schottenheimer: And he and I most likely talked for 25 minutes, perhaps half-hour, earlier than the sport. I might see the smile on his face. He was so excited to get on the market. He was nervous. Like, take into consideration that. A man that had achieved all these issues, he was truly so excited, however but nervous and (he had) butterflies. He ended up enjoying nice. I imply, preseason, however who cares? I imply, he moved ’em proper down the sector.

TV announcer: We get our first have a look at (Luck) tonight as he works within the shotgun on first down. Out of the backfield, Marlon Mack will get round KJ Wright, picks up the primary down, and a pleasant strategy to begin for Luck and the Colts.

Schottenheimer: That’s one of many highlights of my time with Andrew was simply seeing that simply absolute unbelievable emotion that he was displaying earlier than that recreation, a meaningless preseason recreation that most individuals don’t even play in.

Keefer: And Luck was on his method again, and after a feeling-out interval realized he had an ally in Jacoby Brissett. Over time, the 2 would develop into shut buddies, and Brissett would turn into one among Luck’s greatest supporters throughout his comeback season.

Brissett: I wouldn’t say we had a friction between us, nevertheless it was like, we have been each going by our issues, so it was sort of exhausting for me to essentially get a great first impression when he was going backwards and forwards with how he was that season and stuff like that. But then that subsequent offseason, when he got here again, he was wholesome and we had a recent begin, him coming again being the starter, after which we have been capable of simply begin over from scratch. It sort of simply — I imply, we had some related battle wounds and tales, so it was sort of like we fell again on that somewhat bit, after which it sort of simply progressed from there.

Keefer: Luck would truly admit in his retirement press convention how jealous and the way resentful he was of Brissett at this level. “This fun, happy dude who was in my spot,” he stated, “as the quarterback of this team. I obviously did not have any confidence in myself, and I obviously could not have been more wrong about him.”

Robert Griffin III: It weighs on a quarterback rather a lot, and Andrew spoke to it. I keep in mind earlier than he retired he had talked about Jacoby Brissett.

Keefer: Robert Griffin III, the QB who topped Luck for the Heisman in 2011 and went one choose behind him within the NFL Draft a number of months later, then beat him out for Rookie of the Year, is aware of firsthand how a lot it weighs on a franchise quarterback when ache prevents you from being with the group each day.

Griffin III: I imagine Jacoby began the yr that he was out, and he stated that watching Jacoby take the primary group reps and watching Jacoby do that and watching Jacoby do this, he couldn’t assist however really feel like, “Man, I’m supposed to be doing that.” And right here’s the factor: When I used to be in school, I tore my ACL in 2009. When I tore it in 2009, I didn’t love soccer at that time, nevertheless it was taken away from me, so I wasn’t capable of go apply. I wasn’t capable of go journey with the group. And I might be going within the coaching room to do rehab and all people else going out, operating round, having a great time, whereas I’m attempting to learn to stroll once more. And for me, I really feel like that is perhaps somewhat little bit of what Andrew was going by on a repeated foundation. He was having to do this virtually each offseason.

Continually, for years, one thing was harm. He was having to rehab one thing and the sport stored getting taken away from him. And then when he missed that yr, he stated it. He had shaped some types of jealousy in the direction of Jacoby Brissett as a result of he felt like he was doing what he was speculated to be doing and this was his group and this, that and the opposite. So for a quarterback, that weighs actually, actually closely on you, as a result of we’re all these alpha-type, type-A personalities who wish to be within the combine, and we’re all territorial. So I feel for Andrew, that’s a part of what may need made him resent the sport simply based mostly off of what he stated. He hasn’t advised me something like that.

Keefer: Luck escaped the preseason unscathed, and with every passing week was wanting an increasing number of like his outdated self. He’d even discovered one thing new.

Brissett: After the primary week of coaching camp, we have been full go. We’re going at it. And he was like, you can simply see his thoughts click on. Like, he was like, “I’m playing football.” I’ll always remember it was the joke. Like, “Andrew, you don’t take hits. You don’t take hits, you don’t take hits.” So he was scrambling out of the pocket and one thing occurred, he simply ran the ball and didn’t exit of bounds. And it’s clearly apply, you possibly can’t get hit or something like that. And Frank made an emphasis, “Hey, Andrew, you’ve got to get down or get out of bounds.” Or Nick stated one thing like, “Get out or get out of bounds.” Like, you can simply see him like, “OK, I can do that.” Rather than – I suppose outdated Andrew was like, “Oh, I’m going to take the hit. I’m going to run somebody over. I’m going to put my body on the line.” And then it occurred in a recreation, he actually ran out of bounds at like the 2. He was simply completely different, you understand? It was simply — and I believed that was actually cool simply to see the flip of like, I noticed him final yr or the yr earlier than and I noticed him the subsequent yr, and it was like, “Man, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league for a reason,” you understand?

Keefer: Andrew Luck? Not taking a success? This was a eureka second, however even a number of video games into the season there was nonetheless part of him that craved contact. I suppose outdated habits die exhausting.

Brissett: He was enjoying so effectively versus the Patriots. Our offensive line was enjoying rather well, too, and he hadn’t gotten hit. I simply keep in mind him saying, “Jacoby, this is going to sound weird, but can you hit me on the sideline? Because I need to feel the game right now.” I am going, “I don’t think I’m supposed to hit you. I think that was the purpose of us refurbishing the line was for you to not get hit.” I, like, push him on his chest, and he was like, “Damn, that feels so good.” And I am going, “All right, well, hopefully, you don’t get hit again.”

Keefer: The Colts began 5 rookies in Week 1 and misplaced to the Bengals. Two weeks later, they have been 1-2 after dropping a street recreation in Philadelphia, 20-16. Le’Raven Clark, subbing in for the injured Anthony Castonzo at left sort out, was burned off the sting on a fourth down with 1:15 left. Luck by no means had an opportunity.

Holder: With the sport on the road, they’re within the purple zone. He’s attempting to make a throw to the tip zone, and he will get sacked from behind as he’s rolling out. And he simply lays there on the turf and simply punches the turf bunch of occasions, and it was one of the outward shows of frustration I’ve ever seen from Andrew Luck. He was simply — he was pissed. He was actually, actually pissed. It’s humorous as a result of it was a second the place, OK, if Andrew Luck is beginning to present that frustration, then this is perhaps an extended season, OK? Because he by no means did that. He very not often ever did that. When you noticed that from him, I feel you needed to begin questioning, “Man, maybe they won’t turn this around.”

Keefer: Every week later, the Colts hosted their AFC South rivals from Houston, the primary of three conferences between the groups that season. Indianapolis was 1-3, determined for a win, however the offensive line wasn’t but complete, and Luck nonetheless wasn’t himself. Ballard was sitting on the sideline subsequent to Tom House when Luck jogged as much as each of them.

Ballard: So I’ll always remember — you understand, we began out, I feel at that time we have been 1-3, and Tom and I are sitting on the (coaching cart). Practice ends, Andrew walks over and appears at Tom and simply stated, “Look, will I ever be great again? Will I ever be who I was again?” And I feel bodily at that time, Andrew was good. Now, it was simply mentally getting the arrogance again that he wanted to must play at a excessive stage once more. And Tom truly stayed by the weekend and watched the sport with me within the field, and within the first half, should you keep in mind now, we received down. We weren’t superb as a group, however boy, within the second half, man, that’s while you noticed the actual particular in Andrew come out.

Keefer: The Colts have been down 21-10 at half. Luck was simply 12-for-24, and he’d been sacked thrice. Then within the second half, he went loopy.

TV announcer: Luck on third-and-10. Protected right here, going to take a shot. Far facet of the sector, and it’s caught! Hilton!

Keefer: Down 18 factors early within the third quarter, Luck received ridiculously scorching, throwing for 322 yards and three touchdowns after halftime. He hit Nyheim Hines on a landing with 51 seconds left that introduced the Colts to inside two, then drilled Chester Rogers on a two-point conversion to ship the sport to additional time.

TV announcer: Luck fakes the handoff, throws to the endzone, it’s caught! Rogers! And we’re tied!

Keefer: But the Colts would lose it late after head coach Frank Reich elected to go for it on a fourth-and-4 from his personal 43-yard line with 27 seconds left in additional time. The choice on the time was closely scrutinized, however Reich by no means blinked, by no means second-guessed himself.

Frank Reich: We’re not enjoying to tie. I imply, we’re going for that ten occasions out of ten. You know, we’re going to be aggressive. That’s what we would like in our gamers, that’s a mindset that we have now in our gamers. That’s the one strategy to win on this league, I feel.

Luck: We’re not going to play for a tie. I feel all people in that locker room fricking loves that. I really like that. Now, we’ve received to execute. I’ve received to play higher. I’ve received to throw a greater ball. I imply, everyone knows the place we have now to enhance, however that perspective? We can get behind that.

Keefer: It was a vital second early within the coach’s tenure, and from that second ahead, his gamers had his again, and his quarterback had his swagger.

Ballard: You noticed just a bit completely different look in Andrew’s eye going ahead, only a confidence stage that, “OK, I still can do this at a high level. I’m still very valuable to this team,” and I believed that was a vital second for him, though we ended up dropping the sport after we went for it in additional time. You know, I believed that’s when each Frank and Andrew, the idea in each of them inside the group, actually made a change at that time.

Keefer: From there, Andrew Luck performed among the finest soccer of his profession.

Brissett: He sort of simply stated, “Fuck it. I don’t care what anybody else thinks of me. Whatever. I’m going to play football.” Like, he used to speak about, “I’m just going to play football, have fun with my friends, make my family proud and make my teammates proud.” And you noticed that when he performed. You know, he was truly enjoyable to be round, though Andrew has the worst jokes on the planet, a few of his jokes have been truly humorous now as a result of he’s coming from a transparent (thoughts) — it was bizarre. He simply was a greater particular person.

Keefer: The Colts misplaced their subsequent one in New England to fall to 1-4, however Luck stayed scorching. In 5 days, he’d thrown for 829 yards and 7 touchdowns, the most effective two-game stretch of his complete profession. The Colts simply had to determine every part else round him, and so they have been about to. But first got here an unsightly loss within the Meadowlands, a 42-32 defeat to the Jets that left the Colts 1-5, tied with the Arizona Cardinals for the worst document in soccer.

Brissett: I’ll always remember, I feel we have been 1-6. I simply noticed him coming in to work upset. And I’m like, “This dude deserves more,” you understand? “Andrew, you deserve more.” So I actually, like, I went to him and I advised him, “Andrew, you deserve more from this group. You have put in the work to earn the respect of these players and these coaches that you should demand more from everybody because like you need to get up in front of this offense and tell them what you want, and that’s what you’re going to get.” And this isn’t to toot my horn or something, nevertheless it was similar to I noticed that dangerous motherfucker Andrew come out. Like, “You’re damn right I deserve more, I demand more.” He began to demand extra from himself, from all people, even me. Like, “Jacoby, I need you to do this.” And I used to be like, “OK, no problem.” I keep in mind him simply saying, “You know, we’ve still got a chance. I think we’re still going go to the playoffs.” One week at a time, he sort of confirmed us how that was it, you understand? And it was one thing cool to see.

Keefer: The Colts beat the Bills the next Sunday, then the Raiders per week later, then the Jaguars, then the Titans, then the Dolphins. Luck was demanding extra from everybody. One week offensive guard Matt Slauson stated that Luck exploded on the complete offensive line on the sideline. A couple of weeks later, he was shouting, “We’re better than this,” after they’d fallen right into a first-quarter gap. Later within the season, Luck lit into the complete group at halftime, screaming at them for 5 stable minutes, calling their effort embarrassing and pathetic. A couple of hours later, a 17-7 deficit had turn into a 28-27 win, and by late December, they’d ripped off eight wins in 9 weeks. A Week 17 recreation in Tennessee between the Colts and Titans would resolve the AFC’s remaining playoff berth.

Holder: I believed it was one among his finest seasons, if not his finest, when it comes to effectivity and accuracy he performed with. I believed that he and Frank Reich made an unbelievable tandem. It was additionally simply the happiest I’d seen him as a participant, and he had only a newfound outlook on the sport. You know, I feel he’d at all times sort of taken soccer as a right. He was at all times good at it. It simply was straightforward for him. Football wasn’t exhausting. Imagine being that good at one thing, and it’s not that tough for you. That’s loopy, nevertheless it’s true. For Andrew Luck, 2018 was such that he had been by a lot and eventually recaptured what he misplaced, I feel for the primary time he had only a increased stage of appreciation for it, and he was a distinct man. He was a distinct particular person, not a distinct participant, however a distinct particular person. That is a picture and a reminiscence of Andrew Luck I’ll at all times, at all times have, as a result of he modified. There’s no query about it.

Keefer: House, who made it to a number of Colts video games that season to test in on him, remembers a second with Luck’s fiancée, Nicole, early that season.

House: Nicole stated it finest, I neglect what number of video games into the season. She got here out and gave me a hug and stated, “Thanks for giving me my Andrew back.” What you noticed and what he was speaking about, she truly felt the identical factor from contained in the bubble.

Keefer: In that winner-take-all recreation towards the Titans, Luck was electrical, throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns in a recreation that was by no means doubtful. From 1-5 to the playoffs, the Colts had achieved it. They grew to become simply the second group in NFL historical past to take action, and the symmetry that evening was placing. It was on that very area early within the 2015 season the place Andrew Luck’s profession took a vicious flip. The hit from Jurrell Casey modified every part. He would miss 26 video games over the subsequent three seasons, questioning at his lowest second if he’d ever play soccer once more. And right here he was on the highest of his recreation, the shoulder lastly behind him, a playoff quarterback as soon as extra.

Luck: I feel if I’ve discovered something, it’s that it’s concerning the journey, in a way, and it’s concerning the course of. And I’ve loved that rather a lot. It makes it — definitely, successful makes it enjoyable. I’m so grateful that I’m in good well being, that I get to play the sport I really like with an incredible group of males. Fulfilled, in a way. This actually has been a satisfying yr thus far.

Keefer (in a press convention): Can you respect the irony? I imply, it was on this area 4 years in the past when this complete factor began, and right here you’re, punching the playoff ticket after a totally wholesome season.

Luck: It makes for a great story, Keefer.

Keefer (in a press convention): I needed to attempt.

Keefer: In an emotional postgame locker room, Chris Ballard, the GM who boldly predicted Luck would make it again lengthy earlier than anyone believed him, discovered his quarterback, and the 2 embraced in an extended hug. By the tip of it, they each had tears rolling down their eyes. This wasn’t concerning the Titans, and it wasn’t about 2018. This was concerning the final three years and every part it took Andrew Luck to get again to this second.

Ballard: Man, I nonetheless get emotional excited about that, simply figuring out what Andrew had been by, what we had been by organizationally. I’ll always remember, we’re all celebrating, then I noticed him. We simply gave one another — each of us received tears operating down our face. You know, to know that what we had achieved as a group and every part he had overcome — it was a very emotional second. I nonetheless get emotional excited about it simply because I feel one of many issues that’s actually misunderstood about Andrew, and that is what made him actually particular, was his — like, he’s a not a great teammate. He’s a particular teammate. I imply, a very distinctive, particular human being that cares about all people. For all of the — and Andrew doesn’t learn or hearken to something, nevertheless it’s exhausting to not hear what went on over that previous yr and a half, and to get to that second and have that large second, a giant win in Tennessee to get into the playoffs after the best way we began, when all people doubted, together with himself, to beat that hill, that’s a profession second that I’ll always remember.

Keefer: The Colts whipped the Texans of their playoff opener the subsequent week, establishing a Divisional Round recreation towards the Chiefs. The Colts ran out of steam, dropping 31-13. For Luck, every part modified after the shoulder damage. His outlook on soccer, his outlook on life. Making all of it the best way again, ending the yr wholesome, main the Colts from the depths of 1-5 to the second spherical of the playoffs? It was essentially the most fulfilling season of his soccer life.

Brissett: On the flight dwelling after the Chiefs recreation, me and him had a great 30-, 40-minute discuss on the aircraft. Even on the bus experience, he simply appeared at peace. Obviously, it was a troublesome loss. You clearly don’t wish to lose. You would have by no means thought that we misplaced, you understand? And it wasn’t that he didn’t care, however you possibly can simply inform he put all of it on the road, and he simply laid all of it out.

David Shaw: Fighting by it, not for the data, not for the cash, for the fellows in that huddle.

Keefer: David Shaw, who coached Luck at Stanford.

Shaw: He simply knew, “These guys need me. I can’t stop. I can’t sit out. I can’t leave them out there to dry. I can still play and still play at a high level,” and to look at him undergo that after which come again out the again finish and play freakshow soccer. I imply, freakshow soccer. They name it “hero ball,” proper? It wasn’t hero ball. Like, he wasn’t there for himself and stats. And I feel as soon as he received by the darkness and received a path — I received’t say it for him, however there are lots of people that he can thank for serving to him get out of that darkish place. Once he received out of that darkish place, as a result of the opposite factor that Andrew likes to do is figure. So as soon as he received a path, as soon as he received the individuals in place that he might lean on for each his psychological and his bodily well being, and he might get again to work, no person works more durable. Nobody pushes himself extra and no person asks extra of themselves, and on the similar time is selfless, than Andrew. So it was simply nice to listen to that sound in his voice as soon as he made that flip and was on his method again.

Keefer: After the season, luck was the runaway choose for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Luck: This is a deal with. I’m used to coming in second at most award ceremonies, so to obtain one thing is good. I commend all the opposite honorees. I commend all the opposite gamers in right here. Truly an honor. Being injured, lacking soccer isn’t any enjoyable, however you do study rather a lot about your self. On the flip facet, I can truthfully say that the consequence has most likely been essentially the most constructive factor, not solely in my skilled profession, however in my life.

Keefer: 2018 wasn’t simply essentially the most rewarding yr of Andrew Luck’s NFL profession, it was additionally his best. He threw for 39 touchdowns and virtually 4,600 yards. His completion share was 4 factors increased than another season. His QB ranking was his finest ever, and maybe most essential, he was solely sacked 18 occasions, the bottom complete within the league. Indy had lastly fastened the road. The Colts have been coming and coming quick, or so we thought.

Robert Mays: For him to return again in ’18 and play the best way he did, and for it to be this second the place every part — simply the resurgence.

Keefer: Robert Mays, host of The Athletic Football Show.

Mays: Think about this. “Now, Quenton Nelson is here, and we drafted (offensive tackle) Braden Smith. The offensive line concerns that had plagued us for so long are finally gone, and we have the style of play where the ball is getting out of his hands quickly and the offense is more conducive to him surviving.” I beloved watching these groups. You have these two tight finish units, and it’s (Eric) Ebron and (Jack) Doyle and so they have such complementary ability units. Nyheim Hines, that recreation towards the Texans that yr, he made a loopy leaping landing catch, and it’s like all of this is sensible. And so it simply had that feeling of like, “Man, I can’t believe we’re going to get to watch him step into the second act of his career with now this infrastructure that I have faith in, that I think that really can prop him up.” And we received one yr. He threw 39 touchdowns, and it seemed like every part was potential and something was on the desk.

Keefer: He and Nicole have been married that spring within the Czech Republic, and whereas overseas he was checking in with Ballard each few days, asking what the Colts have been doing in free company to enhance the roster. In a gathering after the season, Luck had advised his GM that he was going to be higher in 2019 and the group was going to be higher in 2019. A Super Bowl run wasn’t out of the query, however what nobody knew on the time, he would by no means play one other recreation within the NFL.

(Illustration by Adam Parata)


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