Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson, an NFL prospect who has said he plans to play out his NCAA eligibility and enter the draft in 2019, suffered what looked like a serious knee injury today in the Music City Bowl against Kentucky.
The injury took place after Thorson caught a pass on a trick play. As Thorson ran down the field and attempted to evade a tackle, his knee buckled awkwardly. Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones, the nearest defender on the play, looked particularly disturbed by what he saw and immediately signaled to the medical staff to come out for Thorson.
It was an ugly injury that could make a serious difference to Thorson’s NFL future. The best-case scenario is that he’s able to fully recover, have a good season for Northwestern in 2018 and get drafted in 2019 as he originally planned. But if this is the type of injury that could affect Thorson into next season, he could decide to turn pro now and see if some team will use a late-round pick on him and pay him to rehabilitate his knee at an NFL facility next year. He could also stay at Northwestern but have to sit out 2018 and apply for a medical redshirt to play in college in 2019, which would put his professional ambitions off to 2020.
As players with NFL ambitions increasingly decide to skip bowl games, injuries like Thorson’s make that an easy decision to understand.