Marcus Lattimore informs 49ers he intends to retire

One of the most promising running back prospects of the past decade is hanging up his spikes before ever carrying the ball in an NFL game.

Four years after the first of two gruesome knee injuries suffered at South Carolina, Marcus Lattimore had begun weighing his career options, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported over the weekend.

The San Francisco 49ers announced Wednesday that Lattimore will indeed retire.

"After prayer and careful consideration, I have decided it's time to end my professional football career," Lattimore said. "I have given my heart and soul to the game that I love, and it's time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life and help others. 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."

Compared to Houston Oilers Hall of Famer Earl Campbell as a dynamic freshman power back, Lattimore was once regarded as the best backfield prospect since Adrian Peterson was breaking records at Oklahoma. Even after a second devastating knee injury ended his college career prematurely, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh though highly enough of Lattimore to proclaim the fourth-round pick the biggest steal of the 2013 NFL Draft.

"This was a very difficult decision for Marcus and it was clear after speaking with him that he had put a lot of thought into it," general manager Trent Baalke said in statement released by the team. "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. We look forward to supporting Marcus and wish him nothing but the best."

Per Rapoport, the 49ers paid Lattimore's full $825,000 salary during two years on the non-football injury list. The organization will not seek repayment of his $300,584 signing bonus. Additionally, Lattimore has a $1.7 million policy which he stands a good chance of collecting.

Asked Wednesday if the 49ers received a good return on their investment in Lattimore, Harbaugh replied, "Yes. There's a trusting, lasting friendship there."

Cut down at the peak of his powers, a frank and introspective Lattimore is "sincerely disappointed" that his football career must end.

Citing a "trust that God has a great plan" for his future, Lattimore plans to re-enroll at South Carolina, where he is a few classes short of graduation. Once determined to shock the world with a return to the gridiron, Lattimore will now concentrate on building his foundation, which is dedicated to youth programs in South Carolina.

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