Adversity nothing new for linebacker Herman Lathers

A junior season is on hold because of a fractured ankle.

The preparation for it had already been delayed by shoulder surgery.

Before that, as a redshirt freshman multiple shots and blood checks were necessary to simply be cleared to play for Tennessee and ultimately led to having spleen-removal surgery.

But well before even that, Herman Lathers also had to wait to put on pads for the first time after being diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 10 years old.

Screws and needles, doctors and rehab — none of that is anything new to Lathers, who has seemingly run into adversity at each and every step of his football life. But after going into details about his childhood ailment and his latest setback during UT's media day on Sunday, Lathers vowed to attack his current recovery effort the same way he has all the others.

"In 1999, I think I was 10, I was diagnosed with bone cancer and I think I took shots once a month for five years," Lathers said. "Then I was free of that, but I didn't start playing ball until my sophomore year of high school. I put a lot of work in over those three years just to get to where I am today, and I'm just not going to let a couple injuries stop me from playing ball, doing something I love.

"I'm just going to battle back from it."

The latest fight for Lathers is ongoing, and there's still no concrete timeline for the linebacker to get back on the field at this point.

Before UT's top returning tackler from a year ago can think about playing, he first needs to get two of the 11 screws currently holding together bones in his left ankle removed. Details of the incident from the first day of summer workouts in June are a little fuzzy since Lathers blacked out after colliding with a defensive back breaking on a pass, though the lingering impact is clear for both him and the Vols.

With just two returning starters in the front seven on the roster, Lathers was being counted on heavily to build on his 75 tackles and 2.5 sacks from a year ago. And while early reviews for freshmen A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt have been overwhelmingly positive as the Vols try to replace Lathers' production, the defense could surely use his veteran presence. So Lathers, a regular at practice with a walking boot and crutches, has continued to try to provide that as much as he can until a projected return at some point in October.

"When I got hurt, I took it upon myself to just go out there every day and just help the young guys," Lathers said. "I think I know most of the defense, and I know it pretty well to help guys at each position. I just took it upon myself to help guys, went up to watch film with them, studied plays with them, went out to seven-on-seven with them.

"There were a couple days in camp where it was just too much, I couldn't go out there. I'm still a team guy, and it's still my team. So I'm going to do everything I can to get back and help my team."

There are some remaining obstacles on the way back to doing it again on the field, starting with the removal of those couple screws, then progressing to see how he responds physically and how quickly he can get back up to speed again. But for Lathers, it hardly seems to qualify as a long road.

The original recovery time for his ankle was between three and six months. It took five years before his last monthly shot gave him a clear bill of health from bone cancer.

"My doctors right now think I look really good and better than I should look at this point, so I'm hoping some time in October," Lathers said. "I just come in multiple times throughout the day and do as much (rehab) as I can, massages to get fluid and swelling out. Rehab is what you make of it, and if you're trying to get back, you do what you've got to do.

"I never broke anything really before, so I don't know the affect it would have. But I'm just ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get back on the field."

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Comments » 13

VOLliven2it writes:

Hang tough man, get back on the field as soon as you can. We will be needing you. Best to you as you recover.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

You are a courageous young man, Mr. Lathers. Glad that you are a Vol! Am praying for a full, speedy recovery.

Vol_Stuck_in_GA writes:

I appreciate your attitude Mr. Lathers. Your attitude is representing your team well. Good luck and speedy recovery.

CoverOrange writes:

Wonder why it took until now for the rest of the story to come out? What are the chances of getting a medical redshirt?

PlaidinOrangeandWhite writes:

If Maggitt & A.J. Johnson live up to half the hype everyone is giving them (and I am glady of the hype), I would have Lathers do a medical red-shirt. I wouldn't take any chances in rushing him back for a half season.

VolGrad writes:

Wish you the best, Mr. Lathers.


stevefrommemphis writes:

I don't remember exactly what Herman Lathers said, but I do remember that he made some mature, reasonable comments a couple of years ago, I believe regarding the Kiffin departure. He won my respect back then, and everything I've seen and heard about Herman Lathers since then has confirmed my opinion that he is a fine young man and an asset to the team and the university. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Bleed_Orange_n_Ky writes:

Prayers for a full recovery Mr. Lathers ... attitudes like yours makes me even prouder to be a fan of the Big Orange!

CarlChilders writes:

Didn't Herman plum near take Bryce Brown's head clean off a couple of years ago?

Docrok writes:

in response to PlaidinOrangeandWhite:

If Maggitt & A.J. Johnson live up to half the hype everyone is giving them (and I am glady of the hype), I would have Lathers do a medical red-shirt. I wouldn't take any chances in rushing him back for a half season.

Lathers already took a medical redshirt his freshman season therefore whether he plays this year or not he still only has one more year of eligibility.

kazoo writes:

Tough kid, good story. It frankly doesn't sound like he's going to be ready to play this year. He had a serious ankle injury. If he can't get on the field until October, he and the school should request a medical redshirt and get him ready for next year. By October the heart of the schedule is over, the freshman LBs will have played a lot, and it would be kind of pointless to bring him out to play the last three/four games of the year--if he's even ready then.

MidTennVol writes:

Determined Herman. MAN, I hope this kid finds the field again soon. Sounds like a true Volunteer.

Keep working, Herman. You'll come back stronger than ever if you really want it. You have a lot of people pulling for you out here.

Volunatic writes:

I never heard that about him having bone cancer when he was a kid. I am impressed with his attitude toward his recovery.
Heal quickly, Herman! GO VOLS!!!

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