Marcus Lattimore felt Deebo Samuel’s pain.
The former South Carolina star running back cringed as he watched from home when Samuel, the Gamecocks’ top receiver, clutched his leg and went down in pain following a 9-yard catch in the third quarter of last Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
The injury halted Samuel’s strong start to the season. He led USC with six touchdowns, including two on kickoff returns, and 15 receptions for 250 yards in three games.
“I just cringed and started praying right there,” Lattimore said Tuesday. “I knew it was bad when he grabbed his leg. I remember that reaction something, that makes you want to grab your leg. It is a shame because he was on his way to win the Heisman in my opinion.”
Lattimore said Samuel’s injury brought back memories of the two knee injuries he suffered at USC, the second coming at Williams-Brice Stadium in 2012. He was drafted by 49ers in 2013, but never played in the NFL, retiring in November of 2014.
Samuel’s injury isn’t as severe as Lattimore’s, but his timetable to return is uncertain. He tweeted out he hoped to be back in five or six weeks.
On Monday, Lattimore called Samuel before he underwent surgery to repair a broken bone in his lower leg. He said the receiver was down, but wanted to make sure he stayed positive and give him encouragement, much like he had when he went through his injuries.
“I told him everybody is watching Deebo Samuel right now, the whole world and state of South Carolina. All eyes are on you,” said Lattimore, who is in his first year as varsity football coach at Heathwood Hall. “… Just use this as a positive. Don’t take it was a negative. I know you are down and frustrated and you feel like your dreams are far away now. They aren’t. You can use this moment to show people how to overcome adversity.”
Lattimore used his experience as inspirationand said that his name is brought up as a “poster boy” when anyone suffers a major leg injury. In recent years, he reached out to many athletes suffering major injuries including Georgia’s Nick Chubb, who missed most of the 2015 season with a knee injury but has since returned.
Lattimore is hoping Samuel will have a speedy recovery.
“The whole state of South Carolina loves Deebo. They will love him even more after he comes back,” Lattimore said.