Marcus Lattimore has taken a hands-on approach in his first season as Heathwood Hall football coach.
It’s obvious when you watch the former South Carolina football great go through a practice as he gets the Highlanders ready for Thursday’s opener against Oakbrook Prep. Lattimore bounced from position drill to position drill in a two-hour practice Wednesday and also ran a few pass routes in one of the drills.
Lattimore also spends time working with the B Team players, who were practicing with the varsity that day.
“Best part about being the head coach is you’ve got your hands in every single aspect of your program. It is not just a team, it is a program,” Lattimore said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way. I don’t know where this journey will take me, but I will always be hands on. I don’t want to be the CEO type. I have to be hands on.”
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But defensive coordinator Andrew Richardson said just because Lattimore, who will call the offensive players, is more of a hands-on coach doesn’t mean he rules with an iron fist.
“Many coaches can become stubborn, but he’s adaptable, eager to learn from our coaches and frequently contacts other high school, college and pro coaches,” Richardson said. “In our program, he’s involved in everything, more to offer help than to dictate authority. From the beginning, he’s told us that he trusts us and has been a man of his word.”
With no scrimmage or jamboree this weekend, Lattimore was already in game-prep mode for the matchup against Oakbrook Prep, which is coached by Prince Miller. Miller, like Lattimore, is a former Byrnes High standout. Lattimore is good friends with Miller and has a good idea what kind of schemes his team will be facing.
Thursday’s opener will be the culmination of what Lattimore calls a “crazy” nine months since he succeeded Steve Victory as Highlanders head coach. He was head coach of the school’s middle school program last year, won a city championship and assisted the varsity. But there is a lot more that goes with calling the shots for the program.
Lattimore and his staff have been busy laying the ground work as they attempt to turn around the Heathwood program. The Highlanders haven’t won more than three games in a season since winning 12 in 2009.
“Our school and athletic department has truly transformed since his arrival, not because of his celebrity, but because of his energy, enthusiasm and work ethic,” Richardson said. “Coaching with him directly, I’m excited about the future. The credit for that isn’t because of what he’s already done, but in a growing confidence about what we’ll be able to do moving forward.”
Lattimore’s reach goes beyond just the field. While he doesn’t have any teaching responsibilities, he has other duties at the school.
Lattimore attends meetings or speaks to groups on behalf of the school and does his best to talk to prospective students whether they are athletes or not.
“That is part of the platform that I have,” Lattimore said. “People know who I am and know my name. And I enjoy meeting everyone who comes through that door even if they don’t play football or a sport. If they are a student and want to meet me, I want to talk to them because that is my true purpose. I don’t know where football will take me, but I always will be connected to people because of my purpose.”
But football will take center stage for Lattimore at Heathwood these next few months and is what keeps him awake at night. He admits he keeps a pen and pad with him at home at night while he is watching TV in case he thinks of something they forgot to do in the previous practice.
Lattimore was pleased with what he saw in a three-way scrimmage a week ago against Robert Lee and Southside Christian. The Highlanders have around 30 or so players who will dress on varsity and picked up two players from Airport, who transferred this week.
With no other games going on in the Midlands on Thursday and given Lattimore’s notoriety, there might be more fans in the stands. That is something he and the rest of the school will welcome.
“Whenever there is a crowd, you tend to turn your game up as a coach and a player,” Lattimore said. “Thursday is going to be a special day. I just want to see the seniors and other guys on the team go out with a great experience.”