Marcus Lattimore’s injury is going to be ingrained in my brain forever. Although the entire scene is still incredibly fresh, this one, unfortunately, is here to stay.
I watched the play live and then surveyed the replay once. That was more than enough, and I then spent the rest of my day feverishly changing channels as soon as his name was discussed or any possibilities of further replays surfaced.
It was gruesome, and I won’t be posting the video. By now you’ve likely seen it, and if you haven’t, I would advise you to avoid it. The hit on his right knee forced his lower leg into an unthinkable position, and serious damage has been done.
South Carolina released a statement with an initial diagnosis on Sunday, some of which is included below.
University of South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a significant impact to the front of his right knee during the Tennessee game on Saturday. The ensuing hyperextension of the knee resulted in injury to several ligaments. There were no fractures or additional injuries, according to team physician Dr. Jeffrey Guy. Lattimore's surgically repaired left knee was uninjured during the play.
Lattimore is resting comfortably and will continue to be evaluated over the course of the week. Marcus has already begun the process of rehabilitation prior to surgery and to his eventual return to football.
I won’t play doctor or attempt to dissect rehabilitation scenarios. I won’t explain how Lattimore can be the same back at South Carolina or return to form in the NFL. We don’t know, and it all seems so insignificant now as the road to recovery is only beginning.
From a football perspective, we obviously lose out. It’s selfish to look at it this way, but we’re being deprived of seeing one of the great talents in the game perform.
From a human perspective—the only part that truly matters—this is even worse, and watching a young man beloved by so many be carted off the field with a devastating injury for the second consecutive year was heartbreaking.
As we discovered over the past few days, however, there is plenty of love out there.
This movement began only moments after Lattimore fell to the ground and screamed in agony. After the trainers and coaches left the sideline, the players on both South Carolina and Tennessee came onto the field. It’s not something we often see, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this kind of respect from both sidelines for a lower-body injury.
Tennessee deserves praise for this, but really this is nothing they went out of their way to do. Lattimore has become a fixture of the SEC, and this was a genuine reaction.
I didn’t appreciate it at the time as I was trying to unsee and comprehend what I just saw, but I do now. And that was only the beginning.
The overwhelming response shortly after this injury was extensive, and it became abundantly clear that many in our college football universe and beyond were concerned about the well-being of this young man.
Following Notre Dame’s upset win at Oklahoma and what many are considering a potential “Heisman Moment,” Notre Dame All-Everything linebacker Manti Te’o took to Twitter to talk about… Marcus Lattimore. Not his team’s big win, but the South Carolina running back that went down 12 hours earlier.
Everyone please keep Marcus Lattimore in your prayers! Hate hearing that happen to anybody. Keep your head up big man!— Manti Te'o (@MTeo_5) October 28, 2012
Te’o wasn’t the only one. Tim Tebow—yes, that Tim Tebow—passed along his get-well wishes, while other celebrities, former teammates, other players, coaches and talking heads at both the college and pro levels chimed in throughout Saturday and Sunday.
On Sunday Night Football, NBC’s Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth chimed in as the game was winding down and showed shots of 31-year-old running back Willis McGahee on the sideline in a Denver uniform.
McGahee was done for the night and coming off a huge game against the New Orleans Saints, and the two wished Lattimore well wishes while pointing out the NFL career path of McGahee following his horrific knee injury at Miami. There are no guarantees that Lattimore will follow his footsteps, and there are no guarantees that we’ll see him suit up on the college or pro level ever again.
The amount of support that he received in a 36-hour stretch, however, did not go unnoticed, and as a college football devotee, I was overjoyed to hear the amount of positive things said about a wonderful human being. We are all very aware of what kind of player he is; this was about the person. If you didn't know what kind of guy Marcus was, you do now.
Make no mistake about it, there's nothing positive about this injury. It is devastating, but the response has been overwhelming.
We disagree on A LOT of things in this game—the playoff system, new and old, the compensation of players, and the overall health and suggestions for the wellness of the sport—but that can indeed come to a standstill when necessary when the moment warrants it.
This was one of those moments, and while the sight on the field will haunt me for eternity, the reaction after will be with me as well.
We're thinking about you, Marcus. Get well soon.