"It's nice having a low point," says Luck, "because it means you're coming back up from that point." Here the Colts' QB—out since January 2017 with a shoulder injury—opens up about his pain and his doubts

Did you ever feel like you might not play again?

Certainly those were some thoughts you allow to creep in. Getting help—talking to guys that have had serious injuries—was a really positive thing for me. It's nice to talk to someone and realize, weird as it sounds, that you're not alone, that someone has done [this] before.

Do you appreciate what you have more now?

Oh, 100%. When it's been taken away from you, you're going to appreciate it more. Without sounding too cliché, there's a little bit of a new lease on life.

When did you eventually decide: I'm gonna be O.K.?

There was no epiphany. I didn't wake up one day and decide that. It was the little things, the cumulative effect, getting good help, having honest folks in and out of [our] building—I really am grateful for a number of folks who've been very patient with me.... When you're injured, you don't feel like you're on the team. You may wear a Colts shirt on the sideline, but it's an awkward reckoning. I was, in an odd way, embarrassed about it, shameful that I wasn't out there participating, helping. You do some weird things to your mind.

Yeah, what's your mood been?

The last couple of years I withdrew pretty significantly, within myself, emotionally. It wasn't a fun world to live in.

What needs to improve now that you're back?

Everything: Plays. Timing. Rhythm. My technique—I still don't have that where it's second nature. And that may take time. I'm not gonna kid myself. I certainly feel weathered, if that makes sense. I feel more mature, a little less naive. I feel a little less of a burden, in a general sense. I've always put a lot of pressure on myself. Sometimes, maybe that's not the healthiest thing to do. In a weird sense, I'm being nicer to myself.

You have to let go of the doubt now.

That is the hardest part. That first throw to the left side, plus-20 yards, at that angle—can I make it? Well, screw it. Gonna have to try. What's it going to feel like when I get hit? When I land? What I really wanna do is turn off the inner monologue of doubt and apprehension. By and large, I've been able to do that.... I didn't think I'd have this much fun playing football again. I've got a long way to go—a long, long way. But I believe that if we stay in this process, then I'll be O.K. We'll be O.K.