The 49ers know a thing or two about drafting running backs with severely damaged knee ligaments. They picked one up in the third round back in 2005, in the hopes that, should he recover, they’d be getting a real bargain. His name was Frank Gore.
Enter: the 131st pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.
With ample depth at the position and an already solid roster, top to bottom, the San Francisco 49ers took a chance on the über-talented, über-injured Marcus Lattimore. Sound familiar? Lattimore can owe this leap of faith by the Niners in large part to Gore, who stands as a stark reminder that RBs can recover from so-called career ending injuries sustained during college, and even flourish. In fact, the two backs have been close for a while. Lattimore wears Gore’s number (21.) And Gore even called Lattimore after suffering that fateful second knee injury:
SFGate: “He told me to keep my positive attitude,” Lattimore said. “I doubted myself, I did do that and I lost hope. But now it’s just a great, great situation to be in.”
Just how bad was it? He’s torn his ACL, PCL, and MCL. At that point he ran out of CL’s, but if he had more, I’m sure he would have torn those, too. Oh, and he dislocated his knee in October.
The South Carolina Gamecock, who is the complete package, would have gone in the first round had he not obliterated his knee. How’s 41 TDs in 29 games sound? What’s even more amazing, is his improbable road to recovery. Jeff Darlington of NFL.com documented his rehab back in February:
“Man, I don’t know, but I feel like … after the injury happened, I started thinking,” Lattimore said. “I’m destined for this. I’m supposed to come back from this. Maybe it’s just to help someone else in the future that’s going to go through the same exact thing. Somebody is going to tear his ACL in his sophomore year. He’s going to be a great player. Then, he’s going to tear it his junior year. Then, he’s going to look it up. And he’s going to find some motivation in my story.
“I feel like I’m destined for this. I’m not worried about anything. I know I’m going to come back and be great.”
Sounds like an awesome story in the making. If he does end up getting back on track, he might end up taking Gore’s job from him. How’s that for ironic? But that’s still a long shot. Just watch the injury below and you’ll understand why his resurgence has been so improbable.