Former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is one of the great “what ifs” in football. The 2012 No. 1 overall draft pick, four-time Pro Bowl selection, and NFL Comeback Player retired after seven seasons, before he turned 30. Injuries played a role for sure, but his former coach at Stanford believes the Colts’ inability to build around Luck was a big part of the story as well.
“This is a lot for me, ‘cause I’m a college head football coach,” Shaw responded. “But that’s the most loaded question that I’ve ever been asked. The answer is absolutely not.”
"Not just a unique character, but one of the most unique stories we've had in the NFL."#Colts reporter @zkeefer previews "Luck" — a six-episode podcast about the star QB who retired at age 29 🏈 pic.twitter.com/JAzqkbe1Rp
— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) July 27, 2022
Luck walked away from the game while holding records such as most passing yards in a single game by a rookie quarterback (433), and most passing yards in a single season by a Colt (4,761). But during his time under center he was one of the most pressured and sacked quarterbacks.
Shaw was the offensive coordinator at Stanford while Luck was on campus. He had a front row seat and a hand in developing Luck into the Heisman Trophy runner-up and a can’t-miss generational quarterback prospect.
“He keeps that monster under wraps, but every once in a while, it pokes his head out and it gets your attention. Even his best friends on the team, they knew when the monster was out, you better tread lightly. You better follow his directions. You better do what he says,” Shaw said. “Because first of all, he’s right. And second of all, like, that’s why we’re going to win, right? The nice guy Andrew, the great teammate, that’s phenomenal. But the reason why he turned around the Colts and turned around Stanford was that beast inside of him that would look at the opposing team and say, ‘I’m going to kill you today.'”
In Luck’s seven seasons as a starter he elevated the Colts, compiling a 53-33 record and a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He missed most of the 2015 season and all of the 2017 season due to injury. But when he played, despite the team’s line issues, the Colts were good. He led the Colts to four playoff appearances during his tenure.
Since his retirement Luck hasn’t done many public appearances aside from the 2022 College Football National Championship game in Indianapolis, where he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Shaw recalls the first time Luck threw the football at a Stanford practice.
“He just takes the ball, without moving his lower body, and flicks the ball 15 yards down the field on the far sideline, which is an extremely long throw, 35-, 40-yard throw, and the ball had no arc to it, right? It was a flat, firm throw that got really, really fast. We all saw it, and I looked at Jim [Harbaugh], right, and I’m looking at the back of his head. He turns around and covers his mouth so nobody else can see it but me with his play script, and said some words that I shouldn’t say in public. And we just locked eyes and was like, ‘Oh, my God, what was that?’ This is an Aaron Rodgers, Dan Marino, John Elway throw by a guy who’s 18 years old.”
By all accounts, Luck doesn’t regret his decision, as he’s been devoted to raising his young family. Still, it’s hard not to imagine what could’ve been assuming health and an improved offensive line. It just wasn’t meant to be.