INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck was unique.

FILE – In this Aug. 25, 2012, file photo, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) rolls out of the pocket during the team’s NFL preseason football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md. Luck watched one last game from the sideline Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. Then he said goodbye to the NFL. The quarterback heard boos as he walked away from the field, then walked to the podium and made the surprise decision official. The oft-injured star is retiring at age 29. (AP Photo/Richard Lipski, File)

He loved football. He loves life even more.

So when the 29-year-old Luck thought another long, laborious comeback journey jeopardized his future, he believed walking away from the sport and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars was the only logical choice.

“For the last four years or so,  I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab — injury, pain, rehab — and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in season and off season,” Luck said following Saturday night’s loss to the Chicago Bears. “I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away.”

The announcement and the timing — two weeks before the Indianapolis Colts’ season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers — shocked the football world.

But this was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.

After three injury-plagued seasons, Luck returned last year with a new perspective about the physical pain, mental fatigue and emotional agony it took to keep fighting his way back. Late last summer, he described his state of mind throughout the continual rehab with words such as “sad,” ‘’miserable” and “scared.”

Last month, as the lingering pain in his lower left leg forced him off the practice field yet again, Luck told reporters that he promised himself after playing through the shoulder pain in 2016 and missing the entire 2017 season, he would be honest with himself, his coaches, teammates and the organization about how his body felt.

At the time, Luck said he thought even limited practices were detrimental to himself and the team.

“It took great courage to make his decision to walk away from the game, but no matter how difficult he did what his heart told him and I am proud of him for being honest with himself and the team,” said former Colts coach Chuck Pagano, now the defensive coordinator for the Bears. “With Andrew it was always about more than football.”

While some fans booed Luck as he left the field Saturday night, other players supported him. They understand how dangerous and debilitating the sport can be, which is why some are quitting at earlier ages.

Luck just happens to be the biggest name yet on that expanding list.

“I think it takes an immense amount of courage, an immense amount of self-reflection and a lot of guts to do what he is doing,” Houston defensive end J.J. Watt said. “I am sure people have their ways of looking at it and their ways of trying to say what they would do in his shoes. But the truth is, no one is in his shoes. Nobody has to go through what he has had to go through. Nobody has been through the rehab and the injuries. … I respect the hell out of it. I think it takes a whole lot to walk away from a ton of money like that.”

Colts owner Jim Irsay estimates Luck could have made as much as $500 million if he lasted as long as Brett Favre, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, Luck’s predecessor.

But Luck was never in it for the money or the fame — like others who left the game on their terms and in their prime.

Barry Sanders retired at age 31 after winning four NFL rushing titles and within reach of breaking Walter Payton’s career rushing record. At age 30, Calvin Johnson called it quits after his sixth straight Pro Bowl appearance. Jim Brown walked away at age 30 for a budding movie career, less than a year after winning his third and final MVP award.

They never came back, and Luck said he doesn’t anticipate a return, either, though he’s young enough to do it.

“We all expect we’re going to play this game forever,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. “The reality is for most players, it’s not very long. No matter how good we are, or whatever it may be, there’s life after this game, too. I think that’s a thing we always have to balance and always have to weigh.”

Luck is the sixth quarterback of the 11 selected in 2012 out of football.

Wilson and Nick Foles, both third-round picks that year, own Super Bowl rings. Kirk Cousins, a fourth-rounder, is the starter in Minnesota.

The other two still around — Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill — had promising careers derailed by injuries, too. Griffin, the No. 2 pick who played high school football in Texas like Luck and beat Luck out for the 2011 Heisman Trophy award, is fighting for a roster spot in Baltimore. Tannehill, the No. 8 pick, is the backup to Marcus Mariota in Tennessee.

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