Marcus Lattimore is giving up the game of football for good. One of South Carolina’s greatest players ever has announced his retirement from the NFL. He just couldn’t make his way back to pro form after the last terrible knee injury he received in college.
He never played a down for San Francisco, yet the team will not seek reimbursement for the $350K signing bonus given to the young man. Lattimore plans to return to South Carolina to finish up his degree. He was a thundering runner with huge NFL potential when his leg got mangled in 2012 in a game versus Tennessee. The Niners had drafted the runner in the fourth round the following year in hopes that he could make a comeback despite the severe knee damage he suffered as a Gamecock.
What can young football players starting out in high school football learn from this short lived pro football career? Be a quarterback or receiver. Better yet, be the best field goal kicker in your state. Even better, play baseball. Be anything but a running back. That is the most brutal position to play over the long haul. If you manage to avoid nasty leg injuries like the one that effectively ended Lattimore’s NFL dreams, there is always the possible brain damage that comes later. I love the game of football obviously, but I would steer any young man away from being a running back. I know it is a good way to get into college for that “free” education, but there are other ways for that to happen. And for those guys with NFL aspirations, that is getting more gloomy each year. The passing game is taking over bigger chunks of offenses every season and rushers are not seen as being as valuable as they once were. The fact that running backs are more likely to get hurt also makes NFL franchises under pay these backs in today’s NFL.
The NFL is a cold hard business, but 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was sincere in his comments about Marcus Lattimore. The hard nosed coach surely appreciated what the young man did in his efforts to get back on the football field. But the fact remains that Harbaugh has to keep moving as his team gets ready for the next opponent. There was a short presser where he answered a few questions about Lattimore and that was the end of it. The team moves forward and the player is left to start his new life in a different direction.
One star college player should take note of this story and that is Todd Gurley of Georgia. The suspended running back will have the “opportunity” to come back for the last few games of this season after getting punished by the corrupt NCAA. UGA went along spinelessly to keep the hammer of the NCAA from dropping harder on them in the future. So the best runner in the country has sat out for the past few weeks to think about his “crime” of signing is own name. Gurley should not play another down for the Georgia Bulldogs. There is nothing for him to gain. There is only the possibility of ending up like Marcus Lattimore, a broken athlete. Why should Todd Gurley put his career on the line for a school that would not risk much to defend him?
Gurley is just one of many college running backs that need to carefully think about the Lattimore story. Sure, he did make some money from pro football, but look what it cost him. He will have leg trouble forever most likely. He was one of the best of the past ten years and now he is done and headed back to school. He did a lot for his university and he should have every opportunity to use that network to help him in whatever career he chooses. That is the bright side of a dark story I guess. There will be fewer and fewer silver linings for the running back position going forward though.