It’s what they do next that really counts
It’s been ten years and it is still hard to talk about.
On October 3, 2002, my son Nick Black ended his football career on the field at Florida State University’s Doak Campbell Stadium. In the middle of his redshirt junior season as a Clemson Tiger offensive lineman, a defensive end was blocked into the side of his right lower leg, shattering everything between his knee brace and his ankle brace.
When the anniversary of my son’s injury arrived, I didn’t realize it had been 10 years. But my son did. It was a horrific injury that required more than a year of rehabilitation and two surgeries.
When Marcus Lattimore was injured in South Carolina’s game with Tennessee last weekend, we were all forced to re-live those moments.
When Lattimore went down, I really didn’t want to see it. It is my responsibility to take care of injured athletes when those things happen, and I know that I can do my job when the time comes. But I sure don’t like to watch it on TV.
When Nick was injured, the Clemson athletic trainer beckoned me on to the field to assist. One memorable photo shows me lifting my 300-pound son onto the cart to remove him from the field. Standing next to me was Joey Batson, the head strength coach at Clemson. Batson could pick up the corner of my house but I was the one who picked up my son.
As Nick approached the exit at the end of the stadium, the crowd erupted in applause as Nick, his head down in agony, raised his arm in encouragement. It was the exact same spot where Lattimore’s mother stood waiting on her son to get there.
It is genuinely heartbreaking. As a Clemson fan, South Carolina is the enemy. You want them to lose every game. But this was different. This hurts all of us.
I felt the pain that his family was experiencing. I still get emotional just telling the story of Nick’s last game and the tears were close watching the players from both sidelines pour onto the field to support the injured Lattimore.
What’s next for this young man?
He’s surely had surgery by now and he is going to get better acquainted with my professions than he ever did with his ACL injury. Those things that made him one of the country’s best running backs will help him with his rehabilitation.
But sometimes injuries are just too much to overcome. I hope that he plays again someday. He deserves the chance. But if he can’t, I hope that he takes the lessons that he has already learned about what it takes to become so good and the lessons still to come about overcoming adversity and makes his life count for something outside football.
It has been reported that just before taking the field last week, Lattimore told his teammates that they should “play like you may never get to play again.”
How poignant is that?
Some pretty good coaches that I know are always telling their players they shouldn’t let a win or a championship be the greatest thing that they ever do ... that it’s what you do next that counts most.
I’m betting on Marcus Lattimore to do something pretty spectacular next.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (email@example.com)