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For Colts fans, Comeback Player of the Year doesn’t quite capture Andrew Luck’s return to football

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts fans were stuck in a fog for three seasons. It all started after the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2015 — a game that would later become known as Deflategate. Since the Colts were absolutely dismantled in Foxborough, things started to spiral out of control.

The 2015 regular season would see Andrew Luck not only miss the first NFL game of his career in Week 4, due to what was reported as an injury to his throwing shoulder, it would be the first time Luck had to shutdown his season early after lacerating a kidney and partially tearing an abdominal muscle against the Denver Broncos in Week 9. Little did fans know at that time that the injury to Luck’s throwing shoulder would not properly heal.

Knowing what we know now, it is astonishing that Luck was able to suit up for the entire 2016 season. He played through pain in his throwing shoulder for one of the most efficient seasons of his career. The Colts were still not able to make it into the playoffs but Luck did all he could have been expected to do, given the state of what was going on in his shoulder, to help the Colts get there.

January 1, 2017 was the last time Colts fans would see their franchise quarterback play an NFL game until September 9, 2018. It was a difficult absence for fans but even more so for Andrew Luck.

Luck had shoulder surgery in mid-January 2017. Most within the Colts organization, Luck included, thought he would be back by Week 1 for the 2017 season. However, he rushed his rehab. His shoulder did not heal properly.

After a summer of questions, Luck was placed on the PUP list to start training camp but was taken off prior to the regular season. He stayed positive. Luck practiced with the team for the first time in early October. However, there was a set-back. Luck kept pushing but something wasn’t right. A month later Luck was placed on IR, ending his season. People were starting to question whether Luck would ever play again.

Luck spent much of the next two months in Europe seeking unspecified treatment for pain. No one heard much from him. No one knew what was happening with the shoulder of the quarterback meant to shoulder the load for the Colts franchise after taking over for the legend Peyton Manning. The questions continued.

At the end of December, Luck returned to the Colts facility. He was cautiously optimistic he wouldn’t need another surgery. He was happy with where he was. He talked with Chris Ballard. They had a plan. Luck was going to stick with the plan and take his time. But the questions remained.

Chuck Pagano was fired. Almost every coaching candidate wanted to know the same thing we all wanted to know, how is Luck? Every coach except Frank Reich. At that point, Luck confirmed he wasn’t throwing a football yet. The questions got louder.

Luck started throwing again at the end of February. However, we found out later he wasn’t throwing a football. In late March, Chris Ballard said Luck will be eased into off-season team activities. But the question about Luck being back to his old self was still unsettled.

In June, Luck finally started throwing “the Duke.” He was patient with his rehab and went about it the right way. His throwing motion was fixed. No longer was it compacted, placing extra pressure on the shoulder. But the question about how would Luck look against NFL defense still lingered?

Luck ended up being fine. Actually, more than fine. He came on slowly in 2018. After a tough start of the season, he turned up the heat and had arguably the best year of his career on his way to becoming the Comeback Player of the Year. The road to this achievement was twenty long, arduous months in the making.

Twenty months of strife and turmoil for Andrew Luck.

Twenty months that made him stronger, better.

Twenty months to finally answer the questions everyone was asking.

Andrew Luck came back and he’s better than ever.