Marcus Lattimore has disproved his doubters before.
He can’t wait to do so again.
“I feel good. I feel like my old self again,” the former University of South Carolina star running back said Thursday during a visit to Greenville.
Lattimore, who’s now a member of the San Francisco 49ers, will get the chance to show whether he truly is his old self sooner rather than later. Preseason camp opens July 23, and the 49ers’ first preseason game is against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore on Aug. 7.
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It has the potential to be a watershed moment for Lattimore, who has been on the mend and immersed in regaining his strength and quickness since a second major knee surgery in November 2012.
“It’s going to be a special day,” Lattimore said. “Maybe 80 percent of people I've talked to told me I couldn’t do it, but now I’m back, so it’s going to be fun. I’m just going to let it all loose.”
Lattimore, who was a fourth-round pick by San Francisco in the 2013 NFL Draft, is eager to test himself after participating in the team’s offseason workouts and recent mini-camp.
“I’ve worked as hard as I can and I’m prepared,” Lattimore said. “I’ll go out there and take that first hit, then I’ll get up and just keep on going.”
Despite playing less than three full seasons with the Gamecocks, the former Byrnes High standout ranks first in both rushing (38) and total touchdowns (41) in South Carolina history and is tied for second with 11 career 100-yard games.
Now he’d like to start making his mark on the next level, which may be easier said than done. The 49ers boast a loaded backfield that includes five-time Pro Bowler Frank Gore; Kendall Hunter, a fourth-year back out of Oklahoma State who averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season; former Oregon star LaMichael James; and 2014 draft pick Carlos Hyde out of Ohio State.
“There’s a bunch of good backs,” Lattimore said. “But the best man will win, and I plan on being the best man, so we’ll see what happens.”
Lattimore said he is also looking forward to reuniting with former USC teammate Bruce Ellington, a rookie who like Lattimore was a fourth-round draft pick.
“That’s my boy,” Lattimore said. “I’ve known him since high school and we’ve been great friends. I was excited to see him.
“He’s a guy that you don’t even have to motivate. He’s a very versatile receiver who’s going to help us get to that Super Bowl.”