There only a few times that I have cringed when watching sports: the first time was when I saw the crash at Daytona 500 that took Dale Earnhardt’s life; second, was Steve Nash’s swollen shut black-eye and bloody nose in the 2010 NBA Playoffs; and the third time happened this weekend when star running back Marcus Lattimore of the South Carolina Gamecocks hyper-extended his knee and damaged several ligaments after a legal hit by a Tennessee Volunteer defender.
Lattimore missed six games last season while recovering from a torn ACL and was slowly regaining his burst. He had been projected by many pro scouts to the top running back in April’s NFL Draft and was considered a definite lock to be a first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. However, as he laid in pain surrounded by his brothers of the gridiron from both teams the promises of a NFL career appeared to be in serious doubt. Coach Spurrier who is rarely at a lost for words appeared to still be in a state of shock as he seemed to have a hard time believing the words coming out of his own mouth.
However, I truly believe the most encouraging words that Lattimore could have ever received were not the tweets from Lebron James and Tim Tebow but was the remarkable performance put on by running back Willis McGahee of the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Although Peyton Manning got most of the praise for last night’s dominant performance in the Broncos win, the contributions of Willis McGahee 122 yards rushing and 1-TD should have certainly piqued the interest of the Lattimore family and Gamecock Nation.
Why you might ask? Well ten years ago Willis McGahee suffered a similar catastrophic knee injury, tearing his ACL, PCL, and MCL in the 2002 BCS National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Before the injury Willis was projected to be a top ten pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, but many feared that he may drop significantly in the draft due to the injury.
Defying the skeptics and so-called experts five months after the injury Willis McGahee was drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Bills and during his ten-year career the 2-time Pro-Bowler has rushed for nearly 8,000 yards and 69 touchdowns and a NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2004.
The road to success is never an easy one but the bread crumbs of success left by Willis McGahee serve as a reminder that with heart, determination, and a will that won’t be deterred impossible is nothing.
Marcus Lattimore’s road to recovery promises to be a long one but his character and drive will empower him to overcome. Although Marcus Lattimore’s time in Columbia may be near its end, the time to fight for a promising professional career in the NFL begins now. Stay tuned and Happy Birthday Marcus Lattimore.. I know I will – A. Denmark