Bryce Love entered the 2018 season as one of college football's best running backs. He ended it with a torn ACL in Stanford's final regular-season game, reports's Pete Thamel. Love had surgery on Dec. 18 and plans to attend the NFL Combine in February, where he will be limited in his participation but will be able to meet with teams.

It typically takes 7-9 months to recover from ACL surgery.

"I'm very grateful to Dr. Andrews and his team for making the surgery a seamless process," Love told Thamel. "Obviously, there's no such thing as an ideal injury, but I'm on the path to recovery, and my goal remains the same – getting drafted by an NFL team and being the ultimate professional. I'll be back better than I've ever been."

But Love wasn't even expected to return to Stanford. After a standout 2017 campaign in which he rushed for 2,118 yards and a whopping 8.1 yards per carry (along with 19 touchdowns), the expectation was that he would declare for the draft. Instead, he returned for his senior season, where he wasn't nearly as effective behind an offensive line beset with injuries. He played in 10 games and finished with 739 yards (4.5 YPC) and six touchdowns.

So why did Love come back? He wanted to earn his degree in human biology because he plans to attend medical school after his football career is over.

"As much as I wish to play in the NFL," Love, who is from Wake Forest, North Carolina, wrote in the News & Observer in August, "I am also passionate about becoming a pediatrician -- something I've wanted since my doctor cured me of pneumonia when I was little."

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A year ago, Love's draft stock was through the roof. Now he's still six months away from a full recovery, which means, best case, he could participate in NFL minicamp and then have a few weeks off before the start of training camp. But if Love's words from the summer are any indication, he's prepared for whatever comes.

"There are not clear answers to the questions ahead: What about injury? Will I be as attractive to pro teams next year? There are some measures I took to preclude these problems, like getting insurance for worst-case scenarios. There's no way to know what the future looks like.

"But I am confident in my decision because it was not something I came to alone," Love continued. "I talked with Coach Shaw and Coach Gould; with my parents; with my brother, Chris. I talked with Christian [McCaffrey] and Solomon Thomas, who both decided the previous year to go pro before finishing college, and to Andrew Luck, who finished college before going pro. They said I can't make a wrong decision and no one pushed me in one direction. But all of them said, 'Whatever you do, go at it 100 percent.'"

If Love is healthy, he's one of the most electrifying backs in the draft. He's much stronger than he looks, and has unparalleled quickness in short areas and the speed to turn the corner. The reality now, however, is that the back once considered a top-50 pick could last until Day 3.