By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a sports story that has shocked NFL fans– but not those who have played the game. Late last night, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced he’s retiring at just 29-years-old.

The former number one overall pick has been plagued with injuries the last several seasons, leading to his decision.

Football is a brutal sport. But people play for the love of the game– and the money it can offer.

Luck was in the middle of a 140 million dollar contract. And he’s walking away– a move former players not only understand, but sympathize with.

Preseason NFL games rarely create headlines, but none may ever top what followed the game in Indianapolis Saturday night when Luck revealed he was retiring out of concern for his physical and mental health.

“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,” he said.

That decision was greeted with boos from the crowd as he exited he field– but compassion from former players who literally shared similar pain.

“Because you could fight through it and fight through it, but when it’s season after season, week after week of having to do that, it makes for a miserable existence and I think he basically said enough’s enough,” Pete Bercich, former Minnesota Viking, said.

Bercich played five years for the Vikings before an ACL tear and concussion led him to call it a career. Stepping away was his choice, much like Luck’s– something not all NFL players can control.

“I mean that’s extremely unique. Most guys either have to retire because of injury or their skills erode and they get cut by the team that they’re with,” Bercich said.

Five concussions and the memory loss that followed forced former Gopher football player and NFL tight end Ben Utecht to retire early.

“It changed my ability to really play the game at a high level,” Utecht said. “It also made it really hard emotionally for me to continue to wake up everyday and give the same amount of passion.”

Years from now, Utecht says the idea of playing again will creep into Luck’s mind– but he hopes the former quarterback will stay true to his decision.

“It’s gonna be so hard because his ankle would’ve healed and his body will feel good and he’ll still feel in his mind like ‘gosh I can go play’ and that’s gonna be the trickiest part,” Utecht said.

Thanks to consistent brain training and rehab after retirement, Utecht says he’s been able to overcome many of his cognitive weaknesses such as memory loss.

Jeff Wagner