On Wednesday, Marcus Lattimore returned to Williams-Brice Stadium, not quite his old self but in much better shape than the last time he left the field there.
Lattimore and 17 of his former South Carolina teammates performed speed, strength and agility drills during the Gamecocks’ Pro Timing Day. Representatives of 31 of the 32 NFL teams, plus a few hundred fans, were on hand, and Lattimore was the main attraction.
Lattimore’s Gamecock career ended on Oct. 27 when he tore three ligaments in his right knee during a home win over Tennessee. He had not recovered enough from that injury to fully participate in Wednesday’s workout, but he is ahead of schedule.
“Marcus was tremendously impressive,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. “You would think he was 100 percent. He may have jumped all the way up into the first round after showing that he’s going to be fine. That’s just me talking, (but) he looked like he’s going to be ready to play.”
Lattimore doesn’t have any idea where, or if, he’ll be selected in April’s NFL Draft, he said, but he was happy to be back on familiar ground.
“This is where it all started at. It’s a lot of memories that come through here when I walked through,” Lattimore said. “I’m very grateful that I was able to play and be raised here.”
Lattimore did not run or even jog during the public portion of the event, but he did perform multiple agility drills and box jumps for scouts in the team’s weight room. Some of the scouts and team personnel who witnessed those workouts gave Lattimore an ovation, he said.
“The knee is good,” he said. “I could be out there doing (more), but it’s not smart to be doing that at this time. I wanted to be out there bad because I love football, (but) Dr. (James) Andrews said we’re not doing that at all.”
Lattimore is running near full speed during his rehabilitation work in Pensacola, Fla., he said, but Wednesday was the first time NFL scouts have been able to see him do any workout since his injury.
“They saw me move a little bit, were able to see me use my feet, use my knee and see that my knee is fine,” he said. “I think everything is going to be all right.”
D.J. Swearinger, who played safety for the Gamecocks and also worked out Wednesday, was “not surprised at all” by Lattimore’s performance, he said.
“Marcus told me before we all left to go train that he would be running at pro day,” Swearinger said. “Fans are probably shocked but me and the other guys are not shocked at all. That’s the type of guy he is. He’s going to do what he has to do.”
Lattimore will travel to Indianapolis, Ind., on April 5 for a second round of medical evaluations with NFL doctors. He underwent more than three hours of testing during his last trip to Indianapolis, for the NFL Combine in February. He has cancelled his plans to hold an individual workout for scouts in April, but he will visit several teams in the coming weeks, including the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams. He already has had a private meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Marcus has shown great improvement,” former teammate Akeem Auguste said. “I love that he’s been fighting. He’s still here, still standing tall. I’m proud of him.”
Lattimore expects to be ready to play during the first half of the 2013 NFL season, he said. He is South Carolina’s career leader in touchdowns (41) and rushing touchdowns (38) and is sixth in school history with 2,677 yards despite playing in only 30 collegiate games.
“It really doesn’t matter to me (where he is drafted) because once I get on a team I am going to prove myself, prove that I am a complete back and I will be fully health so I’ll be good to go,” he said. “I’m not even going to (watch) the draft. Whatever happens, happens. One team is going to believe in me, I know that.”
Video: Pro day highlights
Video: Marcus Lattimore
Video: D.J. Swearinger