UT's Lathers battles on

Vols linebacker faces weekly health issue

Tennessee defenders Art Evans, Montori Hughes and Herman Lathers motion after a turnover in their favor against Alabama at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Oct. 224, 2009. UT lost the game 12-10.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee defenders Art Evans, Montori Hughes and Herman Lathers motion after a turnover in their favor against Alabama at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Oct. 224, 2009. UT lost the game 12-10.

Tennessee defenders, from right, Herman Lathers, Montori Hughes and Art Evans motion after a turnover in the Vols' 12-10 loss at Alabama in October. Lathers has emerged as a defensive threat, but it's the weekly health threat to his body that has him most concerned.

Herman Lathers doesn't exactly know all the details.

The Tennessee freshman hasn't made a decision on treatment.

There's also no guarantee each week he'll even be available to play.

Just about the only certainties at this point are Lathers will most likely need his spleen removed at the end of the season to deal with an undisclosed blood condition, and until then the Vols need him on the field to anchor the defense at middle linebacker. And through there are days the former might prevent the latter, UT will continue to operate under the assumption it will have the developing talent in the lineup again Saturday at Ole Miss (TV: WVLT, noon).

"I don't have too much of a great understanding of it," Lathers said. "I try not to think about it a lot of the time, honestly.

"It's just like I'm never able to know when I'm going to be able to play or when my platelets are low. I can just get through the rest of the season taking shots twice a week or for the rest of my time here taking shots twice a week, so after the season we're just going to sit down think about the options and see what we can do about it."

According to his doctors, the best chance for success might be removing the spleen, which is killing his platelets and keeping the count below the desired level of 100,000 in his blood. Lathers isn't completely sold on that idea, though, and since UT (5-4, 2-3 SEC) discovered the condition last year in a physical, he's been content to deal with it through pills and shots.

Sometimes that still isn't enough to get him cleared to play, and with two middle linebackers already out for the season, that could conceivably become an issue over the next few weeks.

"That's happened - we've had a number of Fridays where we've had to test him and we didn't know for sure where his count would be and whether he could play," UT coach Lane Kiffin said. "It makes it very difficult to prepare when he's a backup - now it's extremely difficult (as a starter).

"It's been a concern for a long time. He's getting tested all the time, (the count) will go up, then it will come down, and he's had to go through a lot of stuff. Sometimes he's had to take some shots that made him very sick for a while. He's really battled through it, and our doctors are looking at every possible option to do something to help."

The long-term outlook for Lathers is the most important factor at this point, and the Vols wouldn't jeopardize it just because they're lacking depth in the middle of the defense. But assuming he's able to play for the rest of the year without complication, the future certainly appears bright for him on the field as well.

In his first start Saturday against Memphis in place of Savion Frazier - himself a replacement for Nick Reveiz - Lathers handled all of the defensive calls without much trouble. He led the team with six tackles before the first team left the game early in the second half, showed solid instincts and flashed his impressive athleticism.

None of that was a surprise to UT since it has raved about his ability all season, but a pair of concussions added to the list of issues Lathers has dealt with trying to get on the field regularly. He's made it now, and the Vols would prefer to keep him there.

"He's really battled through it, had some injuries when we first got here and really has developed and potentially has a shot to be a really good player for us," Kiffin said. "Herman's speed really stood out (last week). He's so fast to the ball and he lined up for the most part really well during the game, so we're very pleased with his first start and how he performed.

"Now this will be a challenge because most likely he'll play more snaps, so he's got to continue to improve and take it to another level."

Another big challenge is likely coming his way after the season as well. But for now, those details can wait.

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Comments » 26

BigOrangeGhostHunter writes:

Get yourself well, and know that the prayers of the Big Orange Nation are with you! Love the way you handled yourself on Saturday!

johnlg00 writes:

Wow! We fans just have no idea what all these guys go through to play for OUR pleasure, though we are free enough with our criticism when they don't live up to our expectations. Hang in there, big guy! We all want you to live and be healthy even more than we want you to play football.

SmokeyHound writes:

we are getting killed by injuries. especially at lb. we could really use jeff luc right now

rogervol writes:

Here's a little background on Pahokee.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/preps/...

gotvols writes:

Sounds like a blood disorder. Herman! get the spleen removed. I know someone that has Hereditary Spherocytosis. They struggled with blood counts for years. Once the spleen was removed, they have not had ANY trouble in the last 10-years. The spleen recognizes bad cells, chews them up and kicks them out of the body. Your body is probably not able to keep up. Once you have the spleen removed, the cells will not be destroyed prematurely. Your body does not require a spleen. You will just have to be prepared for when you begin getting sick to get anti-biotics for it. Hang in there.

Inquisitor writes:

"Another big challenge is likely coming his way after the season as well. But for now, those details can wait."

Can Austin Ward write an article without using the term "as well", particularly in the last paragraph? In this case it's redundant when coupled with "another" to start the sentence. The paragraph sounds better without it.

Austin, please get "as well" out of your system. Try using "too" once in a while. Or "also". You remember those two little words, don't you?

ncvol17 writes:

Best of luck.. hope your decision in the future works out well...you are a true VOL.. giving your all for the team...

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Dang!

Life isn't fair. Hang in there young man.

lomas98 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Wow! We fans just have no idea what all these guys go through to play for OUR pleasure, though we are free enough with our criticism when they don't live up to our expectations. Hang in there, big guy! We all want you to live and be healthy even more than we want you to play football.

Couldn't agree more. Everybody think they know what is best for these kids and they have no clue. I heard "suck it up" and "he needs to grow up" when Nukeese felt homesick. We have no clue what an 18 year old kid is feeling. We all have bad days at work due to something personal. I'm glad this came out now as opposed to criticizing the young man if he struggles like everyone did Chris Lofton. The idiots who did that sure felt like fools when they found out what he was going through.

wayoutwill writes:

One of my friends that's up there with the boys every day says that they talk about Lathers as the next great 'backer to play on Sunday to come out of Tn.!I wonder if he has that sickle cell condition?I belive they take your spleen out when that's the problem.I hope he can get his health right and live a long life.GO VOLS!

bigorange61 writes:

in response to wayoutwill:

One of my friends that's up there with the boys every day says that they talk about Lathers as the next great 'backer to play on Sunday to come out of Tn.!I wonder if he has that sickle cell condition?I belive they take your spleen out when that's the problem.I hope he can get his health right and live a long life.GO VOLS!

No to the sickle cell condition. That's some really bad stuff. I can't imagine he would be anywhere near a football field if that were the case. What they describe sounds more like ITP (Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura).

kkempf#226833 writes:

in response to bigorange61:

No to the sickle cell condition. That's some really bad stuff. I can't imagine he would be anywhere near a football field if that were the case. What they describe sounds more like ITP (Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura).

Ryan Clark of the Steelers has the sickle cell trait. It usually doesn't present a problem, but the last time he played at Denver it caused a severe reaction and he was hospitalized. He ended up needing his spleen and gall bladder removed, and he dropped 30 pounds from the illness. On Monday night, he watched from the sidelines rather than risk his life again by playing at altitude.

bigorange61 writes:

in response to kkempf#226833:

Ryan Clark of the Steelers has the sickle cell trait. It usually doesn't present a problem, but the last time he played at Denver it caused a severe reaction and he was hospitalized. He ended up needing his spleen and gall bladder removed, and he dropped 30 pounds from the illness. On Monday night, he watched from the sidelines rather than risk his life again by playing at altitude.

Sickle cell trait isn't uncommon. But like you said, it normally doesn't present a problem. Sickle cell disease is another story.

I think ITP is the doctor's way of saying "we don't know why your platelet count is low, but we've ruled out everything else". I may be reading to much into the story, but it seems to me they don't know what's wrong.

VolWoman writes:

in response to bigorange61:

Sickle cell trait isn't uncommon. But like you said, it normally doesn't present a problem. Sickle cell disease is another story.

I think ITP is the doctor's way of saying "we don't know why your platelet count is low, but we've ruled out everything else". I may be reading to much into the story, but it seems to me they don't know what's wrong.

That's exactly what the vet told us when our dog was diagnosed with ITP. It totally zaps your energy when the platelets go too low (not to mention that you can bleed to death from it). I'm amazed that he can play this well. W've been so lucky that out dear dog has gone into remission, knock on wood. I hope the same happens here. One thing we do know, he is getting terrific medical care.

sitinhere writes:

in response to rogervol:

Here's a little background on Pahokee.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/preps/...

Wow, I can see why they got mad a CLK. They have nothing else to worry about (28% unemployment, coaches beating their wives and selling drugs). CLK might ruin their reputation.

sitinhere writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Wow! We fans just have no idea what all these guys go through to play for OUR pleasure, though we are free enough with our criticism when they don't live up to our expectations. Hang in there, big guy! We all want you to live and be healthy even more than we want you to play football.

I agree. Take care of your health. My favorite Vol of all time (Reggie) left us too early. We hope you have a long healthy life long after your playing days at UT are over.

finn writes:

Get well soon, Herman, and make smart decisions on how far you push it. I'm looking forward to seeing you grow into a force at LB but I'd be even happier if you had a nice long healthy life to go with it.

kkempf#226833 writes:

in response to bigorange61:

Sickle cell trait isn't uncommon. But like you said, it normally doesn't present a problem. Sickle cell disease is another story.

I think ITP is the doctor's way of saying "we don't know why your platelet count is low, but we've ruled out everything else". I may be reading to much into the story, but it seems to me they don't know what's wrong.

Since the "I" stands for "idiopathic", they certainly don't know the cause.

beardenjt2 writes:

any news about dexter moody the lb that uga cut loose and was looking at us?

VolunteerLifer writes:

These guys often seem superhuman to a fan like me. They run so fast, hit so hard, jump so high, and move like cats. It's always a surprise to see that one of them has a human disease, especially one so young.

Best of luck with the blood disorder, Mr. Lathers. I hope you feel comfortable with whatever option you choose, and that it works out all the way for you.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

Kinda off subject, but I noticed in the picture #93,who is Montori Hughes....Anybody know what year he is??? And what are the chances of him returning next year???

jujuvolz writes:

in response to gotvols:

Sounds like a blood disorder. Herman! get the spleen removed. I know someone that has Hereditary Spherocytosis. They struggled with blood counts for years. Once the spleen was removed, they have not had ANY trouble in the last 10-years. The spleen recognizes bad cells, chews them up and kicks them out of the body. Your body is probably not able to keep up. Once you have the spleen removed, the cells will not be destroyed prematurely. Your body does not require a spleen. You will just have to be prepared for when you begin getting sick to get anti-biotics for it. Hang in there.

Now that they are doing Spleenectomies through the laparoscope, his recovery time will be much easier to go through. It won't be much worse than an appendectomy thru the lapraoscope. I pray that's all it takes to get him healthy again! I'll be praying for your well being Herman! GO VOLS!!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog:

Kinda off subject, but I noticed in the picture #93,who is Montori Hughes....Anybody know what year he is??? And what are the chances of him returning next year???

He is a redshirt freshman! He will be a MONSTER before he is done. IIRC, he was a non-qualifier coming out of HS and went to military school before he was able to enroll here. He is thus a TRUE Volunteer who held to his commitment even through all that difficulty. This is all off the top of my head, so I hope I have the details right and that I am talking about the right guy! If not, I am sure someone will correct me, in which case I apologize for getting it wrong!

cloudodust writes:

Herman Lathers is learning at his age what us over 50 crowd knows quite well. That is 'Nobody gets out of here without something.'...May this be your only something, Herman.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to johnlg00:

He is a redshirt freshman! He will be a MONSTER before he is done. IIRC, he was a non-qualifier coming out of HS and went to military school before he was able to enroll here. He is thus a TRUE Volunteer who held to his commitment even through all that difficulty. This is all off the top of my head, so I hope I have the details right and that I am talking about the right guy! If not, I am sure someone will correct me, in which case I apologize for getting it wrong!

Thanks for the info!!! He will definitely be stud before his career(hopefully 4 years) at UT is complete.

sm1 writes:

Concerning Lathers: His condition does sound like ITP. I came down with ITP at the age of 31. In my case it was successfully treated with mega doses (200 mg/day to start out) of prednizone. But it took 6 months. Does the NCAA allow a student athlete to take doctor prescribed steriods for such a case as this?

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