Northwestern sophomore running back Jeremy Larkin has been playing football since he was five years old, and he was living his dream as a starting tailback in college football this season. Unfortunately, his career is now over.
Due to a recent diagnosis of cervical stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck or upper spine, Larkin has been forced to medically retire from football, the school announced this week. Thankfully, it’s not a non-life threatening condition, but his playing days for the Wildcats are done after such a promising start.
This is definitely not the way, or the time, the 5-foot-10, 197-pound Larkin thought his football career would be over.
“Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won’t be on that field again, given I’ve played this game since I was five years old. I’m extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first. I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline.” — Jeremy Larkin
This is not just tough on Larkin, who had 72 carries for 346 rushing yards and 19 receptions for 129 yards with five total touchdowns in his first three career starts for the Northwestern Wildcats in 2018. This is tough on everyone close to him, especially head coach Pat Fitzgerald and his Northwestern teammates.
“This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him. The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can’t wait to see the impact he makes in our world.”
A Cincinnati, Ohio native and former LaSalle High School star, Larkin compiled 618 yards from scrimmage with five touchdowns as a backup in 2017 before taking over the starting role for the Wildcats this season.
Now, Northwestern will have to move forward, including to this weekend’s game against Michigan at Ryan Field, without its best running back, and Larkin will have to move on to the next chapter in his life with ever playing football again.