Oklahoma Sooners tight end signee Laith Harlow's college football career is over before it could even begin.
Harlow, who suffered a back injury during his senior season at Godby High School in Tallahassee, Fla., that resulted in nerve damage, was told by Oklahoma coaches on Wednesday evening they would honor his scholarship and place him on a medical hardship. Harlow had hoped to rehabilitate from his injury and play again, even if he had to redshirt in 2012.
"I talked to coach [Bob] Stoops and coach [Bruce] Kittle this afternoon, and it meant a lot to hear from those guys," Harlow said. "There is no nice way of saying that your dream is being taken away."
Harlow, 6 feet 4, 235 pounds, was a three-star prospect ranked No. 25 in the nation at the position for the class of 2012. He committed to OU early in the summer of 2011 over offers from Arkansas, Notre Dame, Miami (Fla.), South Carolina, Alabama and others.
After back surgery in the middle of the season, Harlow was optimistic he could still play for the Sooners. He put himself through a vigorous rehabilitation program, and though he tried to remain positive, he never could turn the corner.
"The pain never really went away. I tried to fight through it, but it never left," Harlow said. "My doctors kept telling me that it would eventually go away, but it didn't.
"There are mornings where it's hard for me to stand up. It has been real frustrating."
One of the highlights of Harlow's senior season was when Oklahoma played at Florida State on Sept. 17. The Tallahassee native showed up to ESPN College GameDay wearing OU's crimson and cream colors and earned bragging rights when the Sooners defeated the Seminoles, 23-13.
Even though he wasn't born a Sooners fan, it quickly became apparent how much passion Harlow had for OU.
"It was my dream to play at Oklahoma, and I did everything I could," Harlow said. "I want those great OU fans to know I never gave up hope. I kept trying, but I have to listen to the doctors.
"As bad as I feel right now, I can't just give up on everything. I still have a lot of things that other kids will never have."
The advice from Harlow's doctors has been for him to get a second opinion and it's a possibility that he will have to have more surgeries.
Harlow said the support of his family and friends have helped him during this tough time. He said one of the positives of talking with Stoops has been the coach's ability to find the good things in any situation.
But Stoops, who could not be reached for comment, didn't have an answer for Harlow on Wednesday.
"Coach Stoops is a great guy and so is coach Kittle. I cannot thank those guys enough for everything," Harlow said. "I'm so happy that I can still go to the school. I don't want to leave the OU family."
Harlow said he is not giving up on his future.
"Today I lost something. I lost a big part of my life, but I will find an opening," Harlow said. "I don't know what that opening is at this point in my life, but I'll be OK."
Harlow was the first of four tight ends to sign with the Sooners for the 2012 class. Early enrollee Taylor McNamara and junior college product Brannon Green just completed spring practice, while Sam Grant (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Edward) will head to Norman in the summer.
On National Signing Day in February, Stoops would not comment on Harlow's injury situation.