Coming into this season South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was coming off a torn ACL from the previous year but was still considered one of the best backs in the country. He played up to that stature until he suffered another gruesome knee injury in October, once again ending his season. However, this time he might not rehab just to come back to school, he might have other aspirations on his mind.
Word around the Gamecocks’ program is that Lattimore will forgo another college football season and instead declare himself eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft despite the possibility that he may miss all of next year rehabbing his injury. Lattimore did not have a chance to jump to the NFL last year seeing that he was only a sophomore but the time for him to go to the NFL might never be better than it is right now.
After tearing his ACL in his left knee in 2011 he suffered one of the worst knee injuries you’ll ever see this year against Tennessee, almost one year to the day that he tore his ACL the season before. Two major knee injuries in two years puts a damper on his draft stock so he has to make the jump now to prevent his stock from falling even further.
He’s proved this year that he can rehab from a knee injury and come back just as strong, now it’s just a matter of him working to do the same thing all over again. Lattimore’s story is strikingly similar to the path former Miami star Willis McGahee took after he injured himself. McGahee suffered a similarly gruesome knee injury in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, that many people thought was career ending, but he entered the NFL Draft that spring. Despite knowing that he would likely miss the entire season, the Buffalo Bills drafted him in the first round and McGahee went on to have a pretty successful career.
It would make the most sense for Lattimore to follow the same path because he can no longer risk coming back to school only to suffer another catastrophic injury that could end his football career for good. Another reason for him to go to the NFL is even if he wanted to come back to prove people wrong and try to win an SEC or National Championship before graduating, he only needs to look at the other USC‘s star, QB Matt Barkley, and see what that did for him.
Will NFL teams take a chance on drafting him even despite the two knee injuries? More than one team would be willing to and if this year was any indication he will reward whichever team gives him a chance with the same play that made him one of the best running backs in the country.