ATLANTA — It was a moment more than two years in the making.
Back in January 2017, Andrew Luck underwent surgery to his throwing shoulder. Unbeknownst to him, the next 10 or so months would become some of the most trying times of his life.
The quarterback and those around the Indianapolis Colts organization were extremely optimistic that Luck would be good to go by the 2017 season opener, but his shoulder just wasn't responding as quickly as they had hoped. His return date kept getting pushed back, and even when he was able to return to the practice field in October, it was apparent that something was just off.
On Nov. 2, 2017, unable to shake the immense pain he was feeling in his shoulder, Luck was shut down for the season and placed on injured reserve for the first time in his career. He wondered if he had played his last NFL game.
Flash forward to Saturday night. Luck is up on the stage at the annual NFL Honors ceremony in Atlanta, accepting the Associated Press 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award after putting in the best-overall season of his career — one in which he would lead the Colts to their first playoff appearance in four seasons.
It took a ton of hard work from Luck and from those he worked with both inside and outside the Colts' organization since being shut down that early-November 2017 day, but what a ride it's been.
Here's Luck's acceptance speech from Saturday night's NFL Honors show, followed by the notes and figures from his 2018 season:
"I'm used to coming in second at most awards ceremonies, so receive something is nice (laughs). I commend all the other honorees, I commend all the other players in here. As we know, in this game of football, the truth (is) there are probably 20 to 30 guys on every team that are Comeback Player of the Year in their own way. So I commend everybody on that. Obviously a big thank you — no one gets anywhere by themselves. A lot of help I know I received — a lot of help — along the way, both inside the Colts' organization and outside the Colts' organization. So I thank everybody — you know who you are — for pitching in and continuing to pitch in. This is truly an honor. Being injured, missing football, is no fun. But you do learn a lot about yourself, and (on) the flip side, I can honestly say that the result has probably been the most positive thing not only in my professional career, but in my life. So, again, thank you very much for this, thank you for everybody that has helped me along the way, and enjoy the rest of the evening."
Luck is just the third player in team history to win the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year award, joining Jim Martin (1963) and Lenny Moore (1964).
He was named to his fourth career Pro Bowl after starting all 16 games this season and completing 430-of-639 passes (67.3 percent) for 4,593 yards with 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for a 98.7 passer rating. He set single-season career highs in completions, attempts, completion percentage and passer rating. Luck's passing yards and passing touchdowns were the second-best marks of his career. He ranked in the top-five in the NFL in passing touchdowns (second), attempts (second), completions (second) and yards (fifth). From Weeks 4-12, Luck threw three or more touchdown passes in eight consecutive games, which was the longest streak in the NFL this season and tied for the second-longest in league history.
This past season, Luck helped the Colts become the third team in NFL history to start a season 1-5 and make the playoffs. Additionally, Indianapolis was the second team in NFL history to start a season 1-5 and win a playoff game.
A finalist for the NFL's 2018 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, Luck was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November (second of his career) as well as FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week for Week 12. He also earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week recognition in Week 11 (fifth of his career). Luck was named Comeback Player of the Year by the Sporting News as well as the Pro Football Writers of America.