‘He's found his peace:' An emotional Ertz reflects on Luck's retirement


Back in 2010, Zach Ertz was a sophomore at Stanford and Andrew Luck was a hot-shot All-America quarterback as a junior.

They were very close. Still are. And Ertz remembers all the hype that was swirling around Luck.

And how he handled it.

We’d be in the locker room and there’d be stuff on the TVs about him all the time because of all the hype about whether he was going to win the Heisman or come out early, and he would literally go up to the TVs and turn them off,” Ertz said. “Because it was never about him. He just wanted it to be about the team. That’s just so Andrew. He was always team-oriented. He never really cared about himself as an individual or how he was viewed from the outside.

Ertz and Luck played together three years at Stanford and remain best friends.

Even so, Ertz was blind-sided when he was watching the Miami-Florida game Saturday night and saw on the crawl on the bottom of the screen that Luck was retiring.

He watched the 29-year-old Luck at a hastily called press conference talk about how years of injuries had sapped him of his love for the game and how he could no longer deal with the endless cycle of injuries and rehab.

Saw a very emotional Andrew,” Ertz said. “It was emotional watching it for me knowing him so personally and knowing how much he loves the game of football. … I’m proud of him, for sure. It’s not an easy decision to make, but this game is tough as it is, and it’s impossible to play if you’re 50 percent in and 50 percent out. It’s not good for yourself, it’s not good for your team. At the end of the day, I’m proud of him. I’m happy for him. It feels like he’s at peace with this whole thing, and that’s all I care about.

If Luck is indeed finished, he goes down as the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history to retire before his 30th birthday.

He went 53-33 with 171 touchdowns and 83 interceptions and made four Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Colts.

The injuries?

Colts writer Zak Keefer of the Athletic has the list:

Ertz knows what Luck has been going through and understands as well as anybody how difficult it’s been for him.

You want to be able to be at your best each and every day and there are times when your body just doesn’t allow it,” Ertz said. “It’s tough not only physically, but I think mentally the toll is even moreso, because mentally you feel so capable that you’re able to play at a high level and sometimes your body just doesn’t let you do that. There’s probably going to be more guys retiring early than later. It’s always better to leave a play too early than a play too late in this game because there’s so much risk that comes along with this sport.

Ertz spoke for quite a while before practice Sunday about Luck, who he first met on his recruiting trip to Palo Alto back in 2008.

This story sheds some serious insight into both of them:

In the offseason, 6 a.m. workouts would be tight ends and quarterbacks always competing against each other, and with me and Andrew off the field it was very relaxed and supportive, but in those situations we were extremely competitive with each other. There would be one drill where someone would let one person win and then there would be another drill where someone would let the other guy win, but with us, we would go at each others’ throats. At 6 a.m. We were so competitive with one another and I think it really helped both of us. And then Saturdays in the offseason, I’d get phone calls at 5 p.m., ‘Hey what are you doing? Let’s go run routes,’ and it would just be the two of us on the field at Stanford throwing. He was one of the best teammates I’ve ever been around and one of the best people I’ve ever been around.

Ertz said he texted Luck Saturday night and told him simply that he loves him.

“But you know how he is with technology,” he said with a laugh and said he’d call him once things settle down in another week.

The Eagles' record-setting tight end said his overwhelming emotion Sunday was actually happiness because he knows Luck made the best possible decision for himself.

I’m happy he’s found his clarity,” he said. “He could have played another 10 years if he really wanted to, if he was willing to go through everything again. ... But I’m more happy that he’s found peace in this decision, that he’s able to step away when he wants to on his own terms instead of on someone else’s terms. He played seven years and had an unbelievable career. One of the most talented players I’ve ever been around.

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