Marcus Lattimore turned 21 years old on Monday and anyone who’s seen a clip from Saturday’s game knows what he was wishing for.
The South Carolina junior running back suffered what appeared to be a career ending injury when he was hit by a couple of Tennessee defenders during Saturday’s game and his right leg sickeningly flopped to the turf.
The blow was clean, nothing cheap or illegal but it was gruesome, immediately conjuring up memories of Joe Theisman’s career-ending sack. Theisman was hit by Lawrence “L.T.” Taylor during an NFL Monday Night Football telecast in 1985, suffered a comminuted compound fracture of his leg and never played another down of football.
Lattimore’s injury was being compared to the most devasting hit football enthusiasts could remember.
Social media outlets lit up and rumors about the severity of the injury began to swirl.
On Sunday it was confirmed that Lattimore had a dislocated knee and damaged ligaments.
A statement issued by the South Carolina athletic department regarding the condition of Lattimore’s knee sounded optimistic that he will play football again, although uncertainties remained.
In the release, team physician Dr. Jeffrey Guy confirmed that a “hyperextension of the knee resulted in injury to several ligaments.” Which ligaments were affected and the extent of the damage were not specified. However, the release also said “there were no fractures or additional injuries.” Lattimore is expected to undergo multiple surgeries in the near future to repair the damage and has already begun the process of prehabilitation prior to surgery and to his eventual return to football.
Gamecocks Head Coach Steve Spurrier said the injury was significant but also mentioned that Lattimore has not used a redshirt season so he could take as long as necessary to recover and still return for the 2014 season.
Lattimore was coming off a season-ending left knee injury suffered against Mississippi State in the seventh game of the 2011 campaign had become possibly the most dangerous running back in the nation despite it.
He was the Gamecocks’ leading rusher this season, gaining 662 yards on 143 carries (4.6 yards per carry), with a team-leading 11 touchdowns. He was also the top receiver with 26 catches for 173 yards.
An almost certain first-round draft lock, Lattimore would have been making millions of dollars in the NFL this time next year.
In one agonizing hit, all that changed forever. Lattimore may appear in the NFL but it won’t be next season.
“We’re optimistic his football days are ahead of him,” Spurrier said. “He knows what the road ahead is. We’re all hoping and praying he’ll be back.”
That didn’t seem possible to anyone who watched Lattimore fall or saw the slow-motion replays from Saturday online.
Trainers immediately surrounded him and eventually, players from both sides came out to comfort and surround him as he was lifted into a cart and taken away by ambulance.
Football fans across the nation began praying, regardless of the colors they prefer to wear during Saturday football.
ESPN showed Lattimore’s family on the sideline, obviously emotional as the reality started to sink in.
The injury was gruesome and is an obvious setback, but Lattimore has faced adversity before.
Rehabilition is not new to him — Neither is hard work.
Lattimore was absent from the birthday party that was held in his honor on Monday but he had a message for the SC fans that was delivered by Spurrier who addressed the crowd:
“Tell ‘em I’ll be back.”