Warren Norman, 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year, Hangs Up His Cleats

Warren Norman, shown here after scoring a TD vs. Presbyterian, will formally end his college football career on Wednesday. - Frederick Breedon

Warren Norman was the best running back in Tennessee after a breakout season in his first year in Nashville. Unfortunately, a slew of injuries robbed him of what could have been a truly special career in black and gold.

Warren Norman, owner of one of the best all-around years in Commodore history, announced on Tuesday night that he won't return to college football in 2013.

Norman, who was named the SEC Freshman of the Year after leading the league in all purpose yards, missed all of 2011 thanks to recurring knee and wrist injuries that also cut his 2010 season short. He came back to the Commodores in 2012 but was used sparingly thanks to a degenerative cartilage issue that sapped his ability to make cuts and run at full speed.

"I’m 100 percent sure I’m not coming back," Norman said. "It’s my right knee that had surgery, but my left knee is pretty much the same thing. The cartilage is wearing down pretty fast and it’s bothering me right now. The doctor told me basically I wouldn’t be able to play on it."

- Warren Norman, via The Tennessean

He's expected to officially announce his retirement in a press conference this afternoon.

It became clear that Norman wasn't the same player than he had been in 2009 this season. James Franklin moved Wesley Tate and Brian Kimbrow in front of him on the depth chart, and Norman's carries in garbage time of blowout games looked slow and ineffective. As his year wound down, fans began cheering for him to get the ball as a way to honor a strong career rather than as an explosive weapon out of the backfield.

That's a rough ending for a player we once honored as Tennessee's Best College Running Back. Norman was an dynamic runner who made plays behind a patchwork offensive line and an inimitable presence on special teams. He and Zac Stacy blew past Jared Hawkins and Gaston Miller on the depth chart in their freshman season to give the 'Dores a wide swatch of hope in the midst of a 2-10 season. In a period when Vanderbilt's offense was at its absolute worst, Norman was the reason to keep watching the Commodores.

Now, sadly, he'll formally end his career as a Vanderbilt football player at 3:15 on Wednesday. It's a depressing end for a special athlete, but he'll still hold a special place in the hearts of 'Dore fans everywhere. Warren Norman, thanks for wearing the black and gold, and thanks for giving us all something to look forward to on Saturdays.

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