Barry Sanders Reveals His Thoughts on Andrew Luck's Retirement Decision

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2019

Former Detroit Lions Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders talks before a preseason NFL football game against the New York Giants in Detroit, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Barry Sanders is on the shortest of lists of people who understand what Andrew Luck is going through following the latter's retirement at the age of 29. 

Sanders had a shocking retirement of his own in 1999 when he walked away from the game after 10 seasons of dominance on the Detroit Lions at the age of 31. He told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News that Luck did a "great" job handling his retirement on Saturday.

"It's a personal decision," Sanders said. "It's extremely difficult [for Luck]. You could tell, just listening to his press conference. He's a bright, sharp, young man. He's got many great options I would assume, but it's tough for everyone involved. I think he handled it about as well as you could."

Luck announced his retirement on Saturday and was emotional during a press conference after Colts fans booed him leaving the field.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the quarterback was "mentally worn down, and now checking out."

It echoes the circumstances surrounding Sanders' retirement. Leonard noted he faxed news of his decision to the Wichita Eagle and said, "The reason I am retiring is simple: My desire to exit the game is greater than my desire to remain in it."

Like Luck, it wasn't a question of performance. Sanders was a 10-time Pro Bowler and six-time first-team All-Pro selection who won a league MVP and led the league in rushing four times. One of those four seasons came in 1997 when he posted 2,053 rushing yards, and he was still effective in his final year with 1,491 rushing yards in 1998.

As for Luck, he was a four-time Pro Bowler and still one of the best quarterbacks in the league last year when he completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 4,593 yards, 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Injuries cost him all but seven games in 2015 and the entire 2017 campaign, but Luck still led the Colts to three straight playoff appearances in his first three years (including an appearance in the AFC Championship Game) and again last season.

Neither he nor Sanders won a Super Bowl ring, but they walked away from the game on their terms.