Though Warren Norman was eager about playing a fifth year with the Commodores, his troublesome knees will keep it from becoming reality.
Norman, who put together one of the finest seasons by a freshman in Southeastern Conference football history, has played his final snap. The Georgia native announced today that persistent injuries have forced an end to his career.
"I've been battling knee issues for the last couple years. After talking with my family, Coach (James) Franklin, the staff and doctors, I've decided to forgo my last season," Norman said. "Considering my current health and whether I'll be able to help the team win football games next year, I thought it was the best decision for me."
Norman, voted by coaches as the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2009, concludes his career with 1,317 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns, including a Vanderbilt-record three kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Franklin, who has guided the Commodores to back-to-back postseason appearances and a 9-4 record last year, has never seen the Norman that Vanderbilt fans witnessed in 2009-10. Despite that, he watched Norman deal remarkably with a tough situation.
"You're talking about a guy that's handled adversity as well as anybody I've ever seen," Franklin said. "To be the SEC Freshman of the Year and then see the (physical) challenges he's had to overcome, Warren has handled it with unbelievable class."
Norman, the 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year, concludes his career with 1,317 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns, including a Vanderbilt-record three kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Besides establishing a team record for touchdowns on kickoff returns, Norman also set a new SEC standard during his remarkable 2009 season, breaking Herschel Walker's freshman record with 1,941 all-purpose yards.
Norman ends his career holding virtually every significant single-season Commodore kickoff return record. His 26.2-yard average and 1,050 return yards to go along with three return touchdowns in 2009 are team marks. Norman's 25.9-yard career return average also tops the Vanderbilt all-time charts.
Chronic injuries limited Norman's participation during the 2011-12 seasons. In the last two years, Norman has totaled 75 rushing yards in eight appearances.
In his final Commodore appearance, Norman helped Vanderbilt to a 38-24 Music City Bowl over North Carolina State, who featured his younger brother, Art, as a starting defensive end.
Norman earned Freshman All-America honors as a running back-returner in 2009. That season, he rushed for 783 yards, the second highest total ever by a Commodore freshman. He added 459 rushing yards in eight appearances as a sophomore.
When injuries kept Norman out of the lineup in 2011, his Commodore roommate Zac Stacy filled in admirably at the team's No. 1 tailback, posting back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Stacy just ended his career as Vanderbilt's all-time leading rusher.
Norman plans to finish his Vanderbilt undergraduate degree by the end of 2013. Part of his future coursework will be a chance to study abroad when the current semester concludes.