Feel like the start of the school year is overwhelming? Believe that 8 a.m. lab will be a nightmare?
Try spending a day in Herman Lathers’ shoes.
Lathers, a junior linebacker on Tennessee’s football team, is currently rehabbing a fractured left ankle that has kept him sidelined for all of fall camp.
 “I was breaking on a pass our first day of summer workouts and one of our DBs was breaking on the same pass and saw him at the last minute, and I’m not sure if my foot got caught in the turf, but we collided and I kind of blacked out,” Lathers recalled. “Next thing I know — when I was in my right mind — I was in the training room. I just knew something was wrong.”
The injury forced Lathers to have surgery. Doctors put a metal plate and 11 screws in his left foot, including two long screws to hold bones together, which he said should be removed in two or three weeks.
But a serious injury on the football field seems minor compared to the health problem Lathers dealt with growing up in Louisiana, something his brother reminded him of the days leading up to the surgery.
“My brother encouraged me and reminded me of the things I went through as a young child and through my teenage years, just that the best thing to do is not dread upon what happened, but the only thing you can do is get better from it and learn from it,” he said.
What did Lathers battle growing up?
“In 1999, I think I was 10, I was diagnosed with bone cancer,” he said. “I think I took shots once a month for five years, and I was free of that. I didn’t start playing ball till my 10th grade year in high school. I put a lot of work in in those three years just to get where I am today. I’m just not going to let an injury or a couple of injuries stop me from playing ball, something that I love. I’m just going to battle back from it.”
And battle back Lathers did. He earned All-State honors as a senior after racking up 114 tackles and five sacks for Scotlandville High School. His talents were recognized by few college coaches with only a handful of high-level BCS offers.
 “Being a guy from Louisiana, I was hoping to go to LSU,” Lathers said. “I was an LSU fan growing up, but they didn’t offer me and I got the opportunity to play at a great university in Tennessee, and I took full advantage of it.”
But not before yet another health problem was discovered soon after he arrived in Knoxville.
“My freshman year coming in through our physicals, I was anxious to get out there with the team and it started with my physical. They found I had a low (blood) platelet count,” he said. “It took me a long time to figure out what I was going to do about it. I was going through taking shots, getting my blood drawn almost twice a week to figure out if I was going to play that week. After the (2009) year, we decided it was my spleen that was killing my platelets, so they removed my spleen and said I have to get a shot once every five years just because I don’t have a spleen.”
 Free of cancer and now without a spleen, Lathers has been a mainstay in the Vols’ defense the past two years. He first saw the field in 2009 after redshirting in 2008. He played in 13 games in ’09, starting the last five games of the year at middle linebacker due to the injures of Nick Reveiz and Savion Frazier. He recorded 52 tackles, 43 of which came over the final five games, including 12 in the Vols’ Chick-Fil-A bowl game loss to Virginia Tech. He was named to the Freshman All-SEC team.
Heading into last season, Lathers was firmly enriched as a starter at outside linebacker. He started all 12 of the games he played in, missing the UAB game with an ankle injury. He finished second on the team in tackles with 75 and also added two-and-a-half sacks.
He had off-season shoulder surgery and was only allowed to do conditioning drills during spring practice. With the linebacking unit arguably the team’s biggest question mark during the spring, coaches and fans alike were hoping Lathers, the team’s only returning starter at the position, would be ready to go in fall camp.
Then came the broken ankle over the summer.
 “I’d never broke anything really before,” he said. “I’m not really sure the effect it will have, but I’m just ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get back on the field.”
That rehab process includes visiting the trainer’s room frequently.
 “I just come in multiple times throughout the day and just do as much as I can,” Lathers said. “Rehab is what you make of it, trying to do what you’ve got to do.”
Lathers will miss at least the first month of the season, but said he is “working towards” being able to play when LSU visits Neyland Stadium on Oct. 15.
 “When I originally did it, doctors told me three to six months, it just depended on how quickly I healed,” Lathers said. “My doctors right now think I look really good and better than I should look at this point. I’m hoping sometime in October.”
Until he returns, Lathers watches from the sidelines, helping the younger linebackers such as freshmen Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson.
“When I got hurt, I took it upon myself to go out there every day and help the young guys ’cause I think I know most of the defense and I know it pretty well to help other guys at each position. I just took it upon myself to help guys, I went out and watched film with them, I studied plays with them. I went out to 7-on-7’s every day with them. But a couple of days during fall camp, it was just too much for me so I couldn’t go out there.”
And too much for Lathers takes a lot, given what he’s already overcome.