I have an irrational fear of seeing serious football injuries. I literally have nightmares about them. Nightmares about seeing compound fractures, dislocations, and other injuries that are an unfortunate byproduct of the game that I love. I’ve often thought that I never want to see anything like that happen to a Gamecock.
Yesterday it not only happened to a Gamecock, it happened to THE Gamecock.
I was getting ready to go coach a youth game, trying to watch as much as I could before I left. I was in my bedroom getting ready and getting my son ready, keeping an eye on my bedroom TV all the while.
I saw the play, and I saw the foot planted as a Tennessee defender plowed into Marcus’ leg. The camera panned away, but before it did I saw Marcus put two hands on his knee, and I saw his lower leg bent at an awkward, grotesque angle. I knew immediately it was over.
I turned my head and didn’t watch the replay – I haven’t watched any replays – but yet I still have this brief few seconds burned in my mind. And it won’t go away like the others.
This is Marcus.
This is one of the highest profile recruits we have ever landed – a home-grown bulldozer of a running back that could’ve chosen any school in the country, and he chose us.
This is the guy who burst onto the scene against Georgia with a Herculean performance in his second college game and validated everything we thought about him as a football player.
This is the guy who spoke at churches and other events, willing to tell his story and teach and inspire others, and showing us we had something more than just a football player.
There were those games as a Freshman in 2010. Oh, man, those memories that will last a lifetime.
Then there was the Mississippi State game in 2011. Torn knee ligaments. A setback for sure, but we knew he would be back to 100% someday.
All this season there were trivial debates about whether Marcus was 100% or not. When he ripped off a 28-yard scoring run in the second quarter against Tennessee, he looked as good as ever.
Then there was the play. The play that made tears well in my eyes as I saw Marcus carted off.
People have been speculating ever since on the severity of the injury. Will he be back next year? Will this hurt his pro career? Will he be back EVER?
As I put on Twitter last night, I am no doctor and I am no surgeon. But what I saw with my eyes yesterday tells me his injury is something catastrophic.
Steve Spurrier saw the same thing, and spoke ominous words after the game yesterday when he said, “He’s such a wonderful man. Good things will happen for Marcus Lattimore. I don’t know in what field of life, but he’s a wonderful guy. He’s going to do well in whatever he does.”
“I don’t know in what field of life…”
That makes me hurt, because even though there is no official word as of this writing, Spurrier knows if Marcus ever comes back to football it will be a long, long road.
Honestly, I am half way hoping he hangs it up. I hope he just says, “I had a great ride, but I’m done.” He has nothing to prove to anybody, including himself. As Spurrier said, he will be successful no matter what because of his character, not because he can run with a football.
I prayed for Marcus. My whole family did. If he wants to come back, I hope he does and I hope he’s stronger than ever.
But if he doesn’t that’s perfectly ok, because the game Marcus loves has betrayed him for a second time.
I won’t blame him if he doesn’t want to tempt fate on a third.