Marcus Lattimore was a rookie all over again.
The former South Carolina football standout was on the job for his first day as an assistant coach at Heathwood Hall for spring practice.
“I was excited, little bit nervous and was anxious for it,” Lattimore said after the 90-minute practice in T-shirts and helmets concluded. “But we got guys that work hard and understand working hard. That is going to be easy to work with. I’m looking forward to the future with the guys. We got a good base today, and we got good coaches around me that I am learning from.
“This is new for me. I run football camps, but this is a little bit different. We are focused on team and specific goals, and that is to win a state championship. But it is going to be a learning experience.”
On a scale of 1 to 10, Lattimore said he was an 11 as far as his excitement level being back on the football field and working with players. He said one of his first goals is to learn all the kids’ names by the end of the spring.
For the first part of the practice, he stayed quiet and offered some encouragement to players as they went through various stations.
As practice continued, Lattimore became more comfortable in his new surroundings and gave pointers as players went through drills. During the team’s offensive period, he was in his element as he worked with the Highlander running backs, a position he played throughout his career.
Lattimore worked on their balance, footwork and pass catching out of the backfield. He also worked on ball security and was down on the ground with them doing pushups anytime one of the running backs fumbled the ball.
“Those guys have a great base, and they know how to run the football. I could tell that by watching them. I showed them some tips now and then,” Lattimore said. “As a whole, I want them to love football and itching to come back for the fall, and I want them to be great citizens and leaders in the school at Heathwood.”
Lattimore, whose football career ended after a pair of knee injuries, landed at Heathwood mainly because of his relationship with athletics director Jeff Whalen. He held the first of his foundation’s football camps at Heathwood in 2015, and the two remained friends.
Second-year Heathwood Hall coach Steven Victory thinks it’s a big plus having Lattimore on staff and being a good role model for the kids.
Earlier Monday, Lattimore was sporting the Heathwood Hall polo during a live interview on ESPN. ESPN.com did a piece chronicling Lattimore’s career after football until his graduation from South Carolina this month.
“Just him being out here with the kids sets the example and picks up the pace a little bit,” Victory said. “They know he has been through it as a player, so when he tells them to do something, he is telling them from experience and not someone who has just read a book on football. He knows what is going on and he has a great attitude, and kids are going to follow through.”
With the varsity, Lattimore’s main duties will be coaching the running backs. But his main responsibility will be coaching the Highlanders’ B team, which will be made up 30-35 players from fifth through seventh grades.
Lattimore describes himself as teacher first, and his coaching style is a lot like his personality, which is quiet and reserved but not afraid to speak up when he needs to get a point across. He hopes to pass along traits from other coaches he has come into contact over the years, such as his high school coach, Bobby Bentley (now a USC assistant), former Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, Spartanburg’s Chris Miller and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
“I have been given a great opportunity by coach Whalen, and I’m not going to take it for granted,” Lattimore said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity and to help these young men at Heathwood. This game has done so much for me and opened up so many doors that I’m forever grateful to it.”