Lattimore game-by-game stats at bottom of page
Marcus Lattimore made it official Wednesday afternoon, announcing his plan to skip his final year at South Carolina to enter the NFL Draft and thus ending one of the most impactful careers in Gamecocks football history.
“What he has done for us is the reason the University of South Carolina is not only a football program of significance but our university is talked about around the country,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “People know we have had some success, and it really all happened three years ago. It happened when Marcus Lattimore said, ‘I’m coming to the University of South Carolina.’”
The State, The Associated Press and ESPN.com reported Monday that Lattimore planned to enter this year’s draft, and he confirmed it in a news conference at Williams-Brice Stadium attended by dozens of media, school administrators and family members.
“I am going to forgo my senior season and enter the 2013 NFL Draft,” he said. “It was a lot of praying, a lot of discussions with my family. I feel like it’s the best decision for me.”
The 6-foot, 218-pound running back from Duncan came to South Carolina three years ago ranked the nation’s top high school running back by some services, and his career spanned the three most successful seasons in Gamecock history – 30 wins and an SEC Eastern Division championship.
“I 100 percent agree that Marcus should turn pro,” Spurrier said. “He’s done so much for the University of South Carolina. At some point, when you can really play this game the way Marcus can, you need to be financially rewarded. He’s paid his dues and he’s ready to go do that.”
Lattimore played in 29 of 39 possible games due to injury. He missed parts of each of the last two seasons because of major knee injuries – an ACL tear in his left knee in 2011 and three torn ligaments in his right knee this year – but still leaves as the school’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (38) and overall touchdowns (41).
Despite the gruesomeness of Lattimore’s most recent injury, which came Oct. 27 against Tennessee, he could return to the field as early as the second half of the 2013 NFL season, said team physician Dr. Jeffrey Guy, who helped perform both of Lattimore’s knee surgeries and examined his right knee last week.
“His knee is doing great,” Guy said. “All his ligaments are doing perfect, and he is perfectly on course for where he is supposed to be now.”
Lattimore’s 2,677 career rushing yards rank sixth in school history. All five players ahead of him played four seasons at South Carolina. He rushed for more than 100 yards in a game 11 times, which is tied for second in school history behind George Rogers’ 27 times.
“I wouldn’t change anything that happened these last three years because it made me a better person, made me a better man, and it’s going to make me a better person in the future knowing I can get through anything, and I will get through this,” Lattimore said.
Lattimore was leaning toward turning pro even before his injury, he told The State on Wednesday.
“I heard from a few people that I was the top running back in the class (at that point) so definitely I was thinking about leaving, being a first round pick,” he said. “I thought about coming back after (the injury).”
Lattimore decided around Dec. 1 to make the jump to the next level, he said, and had a meeting with Spurrier last week. Spurrier did not reveal Lattimore’s decision when asked Monday by The State because he did not want to speak for the player, he said.
Lattimore doesn’t have a good idea of where he will be selected in the NFL Draft, he said Wednesday, which is a good thing because ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said Tuesday that Lattimore is a “wild card.” Lattimore has not signed with an agent but plans to before the end of the month, he said.
“He is the only elite running back, when he is healthy, in this draft,” Kiper said. “He’s got first-round ability. Durability will be an issue. We will have to wait and see how the medical checks out.”
Lattimore’s impact on the Gamecocks still will be felt despite his departure, Spurrier said.
“His fingerprints are all over our team,” Spurrier said. “Very few guys do I remember where I was when he committed, and I remember where I was when Marcus committed. I was in my office with the TV on like probably all you other Gamecocks, and we remember where we were when Marcus said he was going to sign with South Carolina.”