One of the NFL’s most touted quarterbacks has now spent nearly a quarter of his professional career on the sideline. His name is Andrew Luck, and until just last month, he had not thrown a football in a regular season NFL game since week 17 of the 2016 season. Luck’s high-stakes return in the Colts’ preseason opener on Aug. 9 demanded the sports world’s attention, and the results are in: Indianapolis’ long wait is finally over.
The former Stanford star began experiencing “minor” problems with his throwing shoulder in 2015, but neglect and poor diagnoses delayed him from undergoing surgery for what turned out to be a torn labrum until January 2017. His recovery proved near disastrous: a failed attempted return in October 2017, a trip to Europe for additional surgery the next month and an increasingly desperate period in which even Luck admitted he wasn’t sure if he would ever return to the NFL.
But hallelujah: The long-awaited second coming of Andrew Luck finally arrived, and it came like a thousand-pound weight off of Indianapolis’ chest. The pricey gamble proved as successful as new head coach Frank Reich or any Colts fan could have hoped, with the former No. 1 draft pick looking as fresh as ever in the preseason opener versus the Seahawks, completing six of nine attempts and earning praise from Reich.
“There’s not one time he tried to get more than he should have and gone down, and appropriately went for it at the times that he could,” Reich said to media.
This preseason, Luck has played for 11 series over a span of three games, thrown a touchdown and arguably most importantly, survived four sacks and multiple other hard hits without discomfort.
In even better news for Colts fans, Luck told reporters, “I feel great. My shoulder feels awesome — the best it’s felt.”
Concerns still remain over just how much of his former self the quarterback will bring to the table this season, but for now, his presence is more than enough.
The implications of Luck’s return to the league are profound. Last season, Indianapolis squeezed out a pathetic 4-12 regular season record without their prized QB, while in the 2014 season (Luck’s last one without any shoulder troubles), the Colts boasted an 11-5 record and ended that season with a loss in the AFC Championship Game. Roster changes since then, such as the addition of defensive back Malik Hooker and tight end Ryan Hewitt from the Bengals, who was one of Luck’s most frequent targets at Stanford, with 282 yards and five touchdowns in 2011, could possibly boost the Colts back to the upper echelons of the AFC. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, a four-time Pro Bowler and the 2016 NFL leader in total receiving yards, is also lurking as a more mature weapon than ever before.
Regardless, the Colts need to invest heavily in their offensive line if they aim to preserve Luck’s golden shoulder, which determines the fate of their entire franchise. He has been sacked 156 times in his five-year career, and Colts fans can recall hole after hole appearing in the notoriously leaky line in most games. Fortunately, the staff finally seems to have taken notice, with new additions such as 6-foot-5-inch, 330-pound guard Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 draft, making him the highest-chosen guard since Leonard Davis went second overall in 2001.
What matters most: Luck will be raring to go for Indianapolis’ season opener versus the Bengals on Sept. 9, and hopes are higher than they’ve been in a very long time. The entire Colts organization is ready to rebuild the franchise, and most importantly, the Colts are hoping that for once, Luck remains on their side.
Mitchell Horn covers women’s tennis. Contact him at