Hundreds of football players took part in a weekend of South Carolina football camps, with all sweating through workouts and some sticking around for a closer look at the program.
They also were treated to inspirational words from a 23-year-old USC legend.
Marcus Lattimore shared a message with campers that included how, in five years, he went from being the No. 1 high school running back in the nation to two knee injuries in college and retired from the NFL. Lattimore, USC’s career leader in touchdowns, encouraged players to cherish their football moments and surround themselves with accountable teammates, and prayed that they remain injury-free in their coming seasons.
His talk resonated with many of those in attendance. Defensive back J.J. Givens of Mechanicsville, Va., committed to USC during the Gamecock Showcase on Saturday and said Lattimore’s encouragement had an impact on his decision.
“He even said that when he went down with his ACL injury, they kept pulling for him and wanted nothing but the best for him,” Givens said. “That separated them. I haven’t heard that from any other school. They really want the best for me. Even if I were to get hurt or anything outside of football, they would have my back.”
Lattimore was drafted in 2013 by the San Francisco 49ers but retired Nov. 5 after being unable to recover from a second knee injury that ended his college career. He is a student again at USC, completing his degree in public health while helping the university as a special assistant to the president.
He was around the Gamecock Showcase recruits all day Saturday and traveled with the group on campus tours.
“It means a lot to have Marcus Lattimore come back and be involved in the program,” recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said. “People know who he is. People know what he means to this program. His presence is pretty strong.”
Here are more reactions to Lattimore’s speeches from several of the prospects over the weekend:
Cade Carney, running back, Mocksville, N.C.: “I actually got to chill with him on the bus for a long time. I have never met someone with as big a name as him that was so down to Earth and interested in some high school recruit like me. He’s as real as they come. To hear a true living testament of Carolina’s commitment to their players is special.”
Michael Pinckney, linebacker, Jacksonville, Fla.: “I loved it and Marcus is great. He is very inspirational. He puts everything in God’s hand and is just a blessing. He loves the position he has been put in and embraces everything that comes his way.”
Kelvin Harmon, wide receiver, Palmyra, N.J.: “It meant a lot how important football was and how quick it can all be taken away, especially hearing it from someone so young and talented like him.”
Eric Douglas, offensive lineman, Charlotte, N.C.: “They have the family aspect here. Listening to Marcus Lattimore talk, even if you don’t play a down you still have a family here. That stands out.”