Last Wednesday Marcus Lattimore stood surrounded by a group of reporters in the 49ers locker room, fielding questions about his imminent return.
The former South Carolina prospect responded with his usual coolness and mellow demeanor, barely reaching above an audible whisper while talking about the conclusion to his painful and overdrawn recovery from a gruesome right leg injury he sustained as a star South Carolina back in 2012.
Despite his tranquil demeanor, there was a palpable air of excitement around Lattimore. Just one week later, following yet another setback after one day of practice, Lattimore announced his retirement from football.
Despite years of rehabilitation, the knee injury proved to be too much for the 23-year old running back, forcing an unceremonious end to one of the game’s former top prospects. Lattimore wrote in a statement:
“I have given every ounce of my energy toward making a full recovery from my knee injury, and I have made a lot of progress. Unfortunately, getting my knee fully back to the level the NFL demands has proven to be insurmountable.”
“I am grateful for the entire 49ers organization. Their decision to draft me was the realization of a lifelong dream to be an NFL player, and I cannot thank them enough for believing in me and for doing everything in their power to assist in my recovery. I will always be a 49er!”
With the 49ers maintaining solid organizational depth over the past few years, general manager Trent Baalke has made a point of searching draft classes for players in need of rehabilitation who could be had at a bargain.
Lattimore had projected to be a first-round pick prior to his injury, but Baalke was able to secure Lattimore in the fourth-round of 2013’s draft with an eye towards the future.
With the announcement of Lattimore’s retirement, Baalke released a statement in support of Lattimore:
“He is a high-character young man who has done everything asked of him and more during his time with us and we have a great deal of respect for the strength and commitment he showed throughout the rehab process. It has been a pleasure to have Marcus as a member of our team and our community and we are confident that he will be very successful in whichever path he chooses to take in life.”
Lattimore will make the transition from Silicon Valley back to University of South Carolina to complete his degree in what might be an emotional return to where it all began, and unfortunately, ended for the budding young star.
The 49ers remain thin at running back following Lattimore’s departure, with only Gore and Hyde remain the viable options out of the backfield, with rookie Bruce Ellington remaining an emergency option.
However, the 49ers are banking on another injured running back in the future, as Kendall Hunter received a one year extension that will keep him with the team through 2015.