The San Francisco 49ers have utilized several draft picks the last three years on injured players they could potentially "red-shirt" for their rookie season. The most notable was South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.
The 49ers used a fourth round pick as Lattimore was continuing his recovery from an awful knee injury. The previous fall, Lattimore had torn all the ligaments in his knee, suffered some nerve damage, and dislocated his kneecap. There was no expectation for him to play in 2013, but the hope was he could recover by 2014. Unfortunately he was never able to make it back, announcing his retirement in early November last year.
SB Nation was able to chat with Lattimore recently, and produce a longform about his rehab process, and what he is up to now. The title of the piece is "The Return of Marcus Lattimore", and it focuses on the psychological aspects of his recovery. SB Nation has developed an extensive number of great longform pieces, and this is just the latest that is worth a read.
I pinned the article to the NN front page, but I know some folks come straight to articles, rather than visiting the front page. I also wanted to call particular attention to a portion related to his time with the 49ers. Many of us thought Lattimore could work his way back and be a potential replacement for Frank Gore. He was back practicing, and looking to get off the NFI list, but it was then that he realized he simply did not have it any more.
But something was off. He hurt and ached as he tried to knock the rust off his repaired knee, but that did not concern him. He could deal with pain. What he found more difficult when it came time to ramp up intensity was that he no longer seemed like himself, no longer felt like himself. Outwardly, he could run the drills his coaches put him through, slicing and cutting and generally looking like an NFL running back. On film clips he still keeps on his phone, Marcus plants left, plants right and explodes on the green practice turf. On video and in person, he looked the part, but only Marcus knew that beneath it all there was another truth.
"My running backs coach was like, ‘Good job! Good job!'" Marcus says. "My offensive coordinator — I was catching balls out of the backfield — was like, ‘Man you look good!' I was like, ‘You have no clue.'"
He had plateaued in his recovery, something only he could tell. The stress Marcus could put on his joints before he was hurt, the ability to cut at full speed and change directions on a dime, was too much for his new body. In late summer, while Marcus appeared to be performing well in drills and, he says, "trying to fake it the whole time" to convince himself he was still improving, he arrived at a crushing conclusion. My knee, he thought, is not made for football anymore.
The article then goes into detail about the dark time that followed. He did not immediately retire, but instead tried to push through it in hopes of figuring something out. However, by late October he realized it was not going to happen, and decided to retire.
While it was a disappointing end to his attempts at an NFL career, the article does end on a happy note. He is working with kids and youth athletes in a variety of ways across South Carolina. He is serving in a sort of ambassador role for his former school, where he is working to finish his degree and then earn a Masters degree.
When you get a minute, give the article a read.