INDIANAPOLIS — On Nov. 2, 2017, the Indianapolis Colts officially shut down Andrew Luck’s season before it ever really got off the ground.
That January, Luck underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder. The team was hopeful that he’d be ready to go by the start of the regular season, but that date came and went.
In October, Luck returned to the practice field in a limited role, but the extreme pain in his right shoulder after every throwing session — despite being administered cortisone shots — just wouldn’t go away.
Luck had all the resources he could ever need at his disposal, but his body simply wasn’t responding the way he had hoped. He wondered to himself: could this really be the end of my playing days?
Fast forward 14 1/2 months. Luck has just completed the best-overall season of his career, leading the Colts to postseason play for the first time in four seasons. This incredible turnaround today led to Luck being voted as the Pro Football Writers of America’s 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Luck is just the second Colts player to earn Comeback Player of the Year honors from the PFWA; he joins quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who won the award in 1995.
Fortunately for Luck and the Colts, the quarterback’s career, he would prove, was far from over after that early-November day in 2017 when he was placed on injured reserve for the first time in his career.
Luck embarked on a refocused — and much more intense — rehab regimen, one that really zeroed in on strengthening the muscles in his shoulder, as well as reworking the base from which he threw.
Luck began to work his way up: mini footballs to high school-sized footballs, and, by late spring, he had introduced back into his throwing program a regulation NFL football. And, unlike the roadblocks he’d experience the previous year, there was no pain this time around.
By training camp, Luck was able to take on a full practice load — throwing for three days, resting, and then repeating. No pain.
He kept checking off more boxes. On Aug. 9, Luck participated in his first live game action in 585 days, logging two drives. The next preseason contest? Five drives. And finally, in the third preseason game, Luck completed 8-of-10 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, showing he was ready to go for the regular season.
And what a regular season it was.
Taking advantage of a brand new offensive system under first-head coach Frank Reich — one that allowed him to get the ball out of his hands much quicker, and then pick and choose when to go downfield — Luck flourished.
He posted career highs in pass completions (430), pass attempts (639), completion percentage (67.3) and passer rating (98.7). In all, he threw for 4,593 yards with 39 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.
Luck finished second in the league in completions, attempts and passing touchdowns, was tied for third in first-down throws and ranked fifth in passing yards. For his efforts, Luck this week was named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in his career.
Luck's more notable achievements in 2018 included:
• From Weeks 4-12, he threw three or more touchdown passes in eight consecutive games, which was tied for the longest streak in team history and tied for the second-longest in NFL history.
• Dating back to the 2014 season through Week 13 in 2018, Luck threw at least one touchdown pass in 34 consecutive games, which ranked eighth in NFL history and second in team history.
• From Weeks 7-12, Luck registered a 100.0-plus passer rating in five consecutive games, which is the third-longest such streak in Colts history.
• In Week 4 against the Houston Texans, Luck eclipsed 20,000 career passing yards in his 74th career game, which tied for the second-fewest games to reach that mark in NFL history.
• Luck was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November after completing 74-of-95 passes (77.9 percent) for 925 yards with nine touchdowns to three interceptions for a 125.7 passer rating, while leading the Colts to a 3-0 record over that span. He was also named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 11 following his standout performance in a win over the Tennessee Titans.
• Luck in 2018 also became one of only three quarterbacks in NFL history to throw a touchdown to 13 or more targets in a single season.
What a comeback.
“I never wavered on my belief that he was going to be great again — never once,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said this week of Luck. “Through everything there was just something there with him that I saw, talking to him, his conviction, his belief in where he was going.”
Luck is also considered a top candidate to receive the league’s Comeback Player of the Year award, which will be announced at the annual NFL Honors show Feb. 2.