CHICAGO (CBS) — The Northwestern Wildcats are losing their most effective skill position player, as sophomore running back Jeremy Larkin is retiring from football due to a neck injury.

The university announced Monday morning that Larkin had been diagnosed with cervical stenosis. The condition is not life-threatening, but will prevent him from playing football again.

“Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won’t be on that field again, given I’ve played this game since I was five years old,” Larkin stated in a news release from the team. “I’m extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.”

Larkin was the leading rusher for Northwestern this season, with 346 rushing yards and five touchdowns in three games, with a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. He was also second on the team with 19 receptions.

“This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete,” head coach Pat Fitzgerald stated. But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him. The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can’t wait to see the impact he makes in our world.”

Larkin’s retirement is a major loss for the Wildcats. Their second-leading rusher, John Moten IV, has only 21 yards on 12 carries, for a 1.8 average.

The Wildcats are 1-2 on the season, and will begin their Big Ten season on Saturday against #14 Michigan in Ann Arbor.