When Adam Schefter broke the news that Andrew Luck was retiring from the NFL on Saturday night, many couldn’t believe it. After all, the former No. 1 overall pick is only 29 years old and is the reigning comeback player of the year. However, the news was true, and Luck now joins Rob Gronkowski as superstar players to call it quits before the 2019-2020 season while still in or about to exit their primes. Is this a new trend, or is it merely a matter of circumstance? Jorge Eckardt and Matt Severino debate.
Jorge Eckardt: While their retirements happening so close together does raise some concerns about the future of the NFL, this is just a coincidence. Both Luck and Gronkowski have been known to have problems staying on the field, and this is just a case of both of them deciding that they have had enough around the same time period. They are by no means the first to go down this path either, as many superstars have retired in the prime of their careers. Perhaps the best example is Jim Brown who retired in 1965, also at the age of 29. There’s also fellow running back Barry Sanders, who retired at 31 years of age, and despite their early departures from the game the two of them are widely considered one of the best to ever play their position. Bo Jackson, Patrick Willis, Megatron (otherwise known as Calvin Johnson), Gayle Sayers, Terrell Davis, Earl Campbell, Tiki Barber and Lynn Swann all stepped away from football before they hit 32. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again, but it is not going to exponentially increase like many are starting to think.
Matt Severino: I believe Luck and Gronkowski are setting a new precedent when it comes to maintaining a healthy work and life balance in the NFL. For a term that has only ever existed in the average person’s life, it is alarming for some to see it now holding true for the athletes we follow so closely. This is unlike any past scenario because of the ability athletes have to remain prominent figures in society once they walk off the field for the last time. Some believe that Andrew Luck might pursue another challenge of being an architect, something he devoted his collegiate time to while playing at Stanford. Gronk has several potential avenues he can consider to capitalize on his beloved personality. The NBA has proven that athletes can still do great things even after retirement. Kobe has won an Oscar and LeBron is well on his way to trademarking Taco Tuesdays. The game of football is a dangerous one; it always has been. The difference now is that the players are aware of it and have alternate ways they can spend their time.
Jorge Eckardt: Sure, they may have made the decision to walk away so they could focus on the “work-life balance” that you mentioned, but ultimately had they been healthy throughout the majority of their careers odds are they would still be slated to play in 2019. Both Luck and Gronkowski cited their injury-riddled past as one of the main reasons they decided to step away from the game. Luck said that he was stuck in a cycle of “injury, pain, rehab,” and that it took the joy of playing football away from him. Gronkowski spoke out just yesterday when he said, “I needed to recover, I was not in a good place, football was bringing me down,” and almost echoed Luck when he said that this was taking the joy out of life for him. As hard as that is to hear, you have to recognize that a player who has worked his entire life with the dream of playing pro football isn’t going to walk away early if he’s not forced to by injuries. Players retire due to injury very often across every sport, it just so happens that the prominence of these two has shoved the conversation into the limelight. However, in reality, this is nothing new.
Matt Severino: The decision made to walk away from the game is more complex than just recovering from another injury. The game itself is unforgiving. For players who are injury-prone, there will always be the next obstacle. Football is a game and it is meant to be enjoyed. Yes, it is a job and with that comes expectations and countless sacrifices. At the end of the day, however, we all want to be able to go home and spend the rest of our days doing whatever it is we choose to pursue. The new thought that seems to be gaining traction across professional sports is that the game isn’t everything anymore. Antonio Brown recently explained that he “doesn’t need football.” This is going to an extreme, but it holds plenty of truth. With new scientific information coming out about the lasting physical toll the game can take, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that an extremely intelligent individual such as Andrew Luck decided that the risk, along with what seems like the inevitable next setback, was no longer worth the time and energy he was putting in.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Jorge.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Severino is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com