This past week has seen three major college football announcements coming from big name running backs. Two were from running backs who realize that their money making future is fleeting, while the other featured a running back who is too naïve to realize the best thing to do. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey deciding to end their college careers and Nick Chubb decided he would return to school next season.
One major reason would be to arrive to the NFL Combine and their individual Pro-Days healthy. Fournette should have stopped in the early part of the season when he injured his left ankle. After sitting out for a couple weeks, he returned to play the rest of the season at about 80% of his normal strength. For him to play in the Citrus Bowl would be to jeopardize his future ability to provide for himself. McCaffrey ending his career before Stanford plays in the Sun Bowl follows suit by attempting to prevent an injury that could end his career.
In times as recent as last year’s Bowl season potential top picks have suffered injuries that put their career at risk. Potential top 10 pick Jaylon Smith, linebacker out of Notre Dame suffered nerve damage in his knee. Not only did this injury cause his career to be put in jeopardy, but it eventually led to him falling out of the first round and caused him to lose out on tens of millions of dollars and a potential year in his rookie contract.
One former running back who did not fare so well after sustaining injuries in college is former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. He was one of the best runner in the country before his first knee injury. Instead of forgoing the rest of his college career and making money with his talents, he returned to college and sustained a second horrific knee injury. After this he was a late round pick the San Francisco 49ers and spent most of his professional career as a practice squad player or reserve running back. A far cry from the level he could have been without the extra injury picked up in college.
One player who should follow in the footsteps of Fournette and McCaffrey is University of Georgia running back Nick Chubb. After seeing his production drop this season due to a serious knee injury in 2015, Chubb should leave his senior season on the table and enter the NFL Draft. He risks wasting his talent in college the way that Lattimore did by staying too long.
Running backs have a certain amount of rushes that their body can take, which is why it is absolutely insane for them to stay in college any longer than they have to. There is a window of three to four years for most running backs to make their money in the NFL. In the end, you can always go back to college but you can not reclaim a career lost to injuries.