Prior to the start of South Carolina's annual Football Fan Appreciation Day at Colonial Life Arena, a breakfast organized by parents of current players was held at the Colonial Life Arena on August 11, to welcome parents of USC's incoming freshmen.
It was the fourth time Yolanda Smith has been in attendance, but this year she wasn't a part of the program or running around with her camera organizing parents for group photos. That's because she is no longer an “official” team parent because her son, Gamecock great running back, Marcus Lattimore, is now with the San Francisco 49ers.
“This group is very special to me,” Smith said. “It's my rock, my support, my family. Without them I wouldn't have made it. I'm not a football fan by any means, but I love each and every family in this room. Football keeps me on edge knowing that my son is a target, and with Marcus' injuries, I wouldn't have made it without them. Being surrounded my people who know exactly what you're going through helps you get through it.
“I'm not going anywhere. As long as I'm not in California somewhere traveling with Marcus, I'll be right here for every home game I can.”
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Lattimore's second major injury forced his hand in the decision to turn pro, and even if he had stayed healthy he would certainly have been a high draft pick. Mom says that turning pro after his junior season was not in the plan.
“The only thing that would have kept Marcus from coming back for his senior year was this major injury. I know he would have been back, because the most important thing all along was getting his degree. He would have had to stay another year to graduate, because he still needs seven classes to finish. God had a different plan for him.”
It has been a difficult adjustment for mom and son, who were never separated by more than the 100 miles between Columbia and their Spartanburg home.
“I'm trying,” Mrs. Smith said. “The first month I was out there with him, but since I've been back it's been difficult. I'm just trying to keep myself busy. I don't call him every day, but I text him every day.
“Marcus was a little lonely, but now his sister (Eboni White) has transferred with her job out there, and she is living with him. She is an executive secretary with a company called Regis Technologies. I do talk to her every day, so I get my updates and reports on Marcus from her. He has family with him now and he's fine.
“He also knows that no matter what, if he calls, Mama's coming. No matter what I'm doing I'll drop everything. He has the security of knowing that Mama will always be right there if he needs me.
“Now it has really hit me how long it may be before I see him again. I try not to think about it. The other night they showed him on the sideline, and I froze the TV screen, looked at him and just cried. I cried myself to sleep.”
While she knew early on that her son had quickly become a major factor for the South Carolina program, she never imagined he would be doing autograph signing events or making PSA's for the South Carolina Lottery.
“To me he's still just my baby. To his close friends and family he's still just Marcus,” Mrs. Smith said. “I do realize the impact he's made. I see it all around him. His motivation, his get up and go, and his never quit attitude inspires people. I see so much of me in him. It's like a mirror image.”
The news that the 49ers plan to hold Lattimore out this season is something his mother said he will take in stride.
“If they let him, he would go out there and play tomorrow, because he loves the game,” Mrs. Smith said, “but he's going to wait patiently. He's anxious about the whole thing, but he knows he's waiting for his time, to heal properly. He knows he'll play when it's time. It's not about him. He wants to help his team, but at the same time he knows the only way he can do that is to be 100 percent.”
GLENN SNYDER BIO
A native of Union, he graduated from Union High School in 1964 where he was a three-sport letterman for the Yellow Jackets.
When he was 13, he came to Columbia with two super Gamecock fans. They took him to the stadium and introduced him to coach Marvin Bass. When he saw the Horseshoe, he knew immediately where he was going to school, that he would live in Columbia for the rest of his life, and his dream was to be a sportswriter.
A journalism/media arts major (1964-1969), his first job after school was with the South Carolina Farm Bureau, where he was the Assistant Director of Communications. He managed Carolina Printing Co. for several years, where he met Dexter Hudson, which led to a 30-year career with Spurs & Feathers as senior writer and columnist, which ended this past June.
He and his wife, Mary, have two children, Kevin (41) and Jennifer (34).
Contact Glenn at firstname.lastname@example.org