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Dec. 12, 2012

media-icon-photogallery.gif Photo Gallery | Exclusive Q&A with Lattimore

December 12, 2012

COLUMBIA, S.C. – University of South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore has elected to forego his final year of college eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL Draft, he announced today at a press conference at Williams-Brice Stadium.

A highly-touted recruit from Byrnes High School, Lattimore burst onto the scene quickly at the collegiate level. In just his second game for the Garnet & Black, the six-foot, 218-pounder rushed 37 times for 182 yards leading Carolina to a win over Georgia. It was the first of four 100-yard rushing games on the season and the first of three in his career against the Bulldogs. He later set the school single-game record with 40 carries for 212 yards at Florida, as the Gamecocks clinched their first SEC Eastern Division title. He finished his first campaign with 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns, both freshman records at South Carolina. For his efforts, Lattimore was a unanimous choice for National Freshman of the Year. He was also the SEC Freshman of the Year and earned a spot on the first-team All-SEC unit. He was a first-team All-American by and a second-team selection by Walter Camp.

The Duncan, S.C. product was headed toward a Heisman Trophy-type season in 2011. He logged three consecutive 100-yard rushing games to open the season, including a career-best 246-yard, three-touchdown effort in a win over Navy. His season ended prematurely when he suffered a left knee injury in the win at Mississippi State in game seven. He finished the season with 818 yards on 163 carries, an average of 5.0 yards per carry. Despite playing in just seven games, he still earned second-team All-SEC accolades and was a member of the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.

Lattimore worked extremely hard in the off-season rehabilitating his knee and was ready to take the field when the 2012 season got underway. He quickly erased any doubts about his comeback with a 23-carry, 110-yard, two-touchdown effort in the season opening win at Vanderbilt, which earned him SEC Offensive Player of the Week accolades for the fourth time in his career. Lattimore logged three 100-yard rushing games in 2012, including back-to-back efforts at Kentucky and versus Georgia. He was on his way to another 100-yard game against Tennessee when he suffered a season-ending right knee injury. He was named honorable mention All-SEC by the Associated Press.

Lattimore leaves as one of the Gamecock all-time greats. He finished his career with 2,677 rushing yards, sixth on Carolina’s all-time list. He is the school record-holder in both rushing touchdowns (38) and touchdowns scored (41). He ranks fourth in rushing attempts (555), third in points scored (246 – most among non-kickers) and tied for second in 100-yard rushing games (11).

Press Conference Quotes

Dr. Jeffrey Guy on Lattimore’s injury, surgery and rehab…
Typically we don’t give a lot of medical information, as you know. But, both Marcus and Marcus’ family asked us to give an update on how he’s doing and a little bit more detail on his surgery and what we did. As you know, Marcus was injured in the Tennessee game. For the most part if you look at the mechanism of the injury, Marcus planted his foot and was hit directly on the front and the inside of the knee which hyper extended it.

He had a number of injuries to his knee, something we call multi-ligament knee injury. There were multiple aspects for that care that we follow as a normal regimen. Marcus injured three of the four ligaments in his knee. To be more specific, along the lines of all the things that we worry about, there were no fractures. There were no broken bones in his injury. One of the things that we always do in the hospital as a part of our evaluation is whether or not someone with a multi-ligament injury or a dislocation is getting enough blood supply because of the amount of force that happened through the knee. Marcus’ blood supply was totally normal. He’s never had a problem with that. Probably the biggest thing that can affect your future with a knee dislocation is your nerves. One of those nerves that we always worry about can actually affect your future and give you permanent paralysis in your lower leg. That was one of the first things we looked at for Marcus and he never had a problem with that at all. Those are the three big ones during the first evaluation in the first few days. He never had any problems with any of those things. We worked on the swelling.

Marcus went to the operating room about a week after the incident. Again, he tore three of his four ligaments. This is the big thing to understand because I think it makes a big difference in the prognosis. There are two things that can happen when you talk about ligaments- you can have a ligament that tears in half or one that pulls off the bone. When we looked and repaired Marcus’ knee, the really good thing is that Marcus only had to have one ligament out of his knee completely reconstructed and that was his ACL. We took a piece of tissue from his patella tendon and put it in to reconstruct that. The rest of his ligaments were either reattached or supplemented and reattached. That’s a great thing. One of the biggest we worry about as orthopedic surgeons is your cartilage. Not only your meniscus, the cartilage cushions in your knee, but also the cartilage that coats your knee. That type of cartilage can have a long-term effect. Marcus had zero problems with his cartilage; he had no cartilage injury at all.

In terms of what has gone on since then, his surgery went great. We were all happy with it after the surgery. He’s done absolutely perfect coming through the last four to five weeks. He’s closing in on six weeks and he’s started walking. We spend more time trying to hold him back probably. I gave him a full exam last week and his knee looks great. All his ligaments are doing perfect. He’s perfectly on course for where he’s supposed to be right now. There are no plans for another surgery at this time. His knee is doing perfectly fine. We’re looking forward to him progressing and playing football.

Spurrier on Lattimore’s impact…
It’s my privilege and honor to introduce Marcus and talk about him briefly. Going back to recruiting Marcus, obviously, he was one of the most highly sought-after guys in the country. It was fun to recruit him even though I had to attempt that “Cha Cha Slide” with Yolanda (Lattimore’s mother) on that snowy, snowy day in January when we drove up to Duncan, S.C. There are very few guys where I remember where I was when they committed. I remember where I was when Marcus committed. I was in my office with the TV on like all you other Gamecocks.

Let me tell you where we were three years ago. I’d been here five years, as some sports writers said, I was a pedestrian 35-28. We were averaging seven wins and five to six losses a year. Then we signed Marcus Lattimore. In the last three years, we’ve won 30 games, we’ve won the SEC Eastern Division, we beat Georgia three times, we beat Tennessee three times, we beat Clemson three times, we beat Florida two out of three, we were 11-1 against those three teams, we got our first 11-win season, first top-10 ever. It’s all happened the last three years. You may say Marcus got hurt late in the year a couple times, and he did. Let me tell you why his influence and his fingerprints are all over the team. Marcus is one of my favorite players, not because he’s probably the best running back I’ve ever coached, but because he’s an unselfish player that wants to do what’s best for the team and he’s highly conditioned. He does everything to be in the best physical shape he can be. It rubs off on the other guys, there’s no question about that. He’s a leader off the field, he does everything the coaches ask him to do and more. That’s the type of player he is.

Another thing you don’t realize that he’s brought to the University of South Carolina in the last three years, he’s our best recruiter. I’d like to say I recruited Jadeveon Clowney. But, if you remember, when Jadeveon came to the basketball game in January, you noticed Marcus was sitting right next to him the whole game. When we had top recruit in, we said get him with Marcus. While he was on campus, I think he told Bruce Ellington he needed to come over and play football with us. Bruce listened to him, he didn’t listen to us. The next time I know, Bruce has been with us two years and he’s the leading receiver on the team right now. Marcus can not only play, he can recruit too.

The leadership and what he’s done for us is why the University of South Carolina is not only a football program of significance, but our university is talked about around the country. When I go around, people know we’re 10-2 and that we’ve had some success and we’re going to top-notch bowl games. It really all happened three years ago. It happened when Marcus Lattimore said I’m coming to the University of South Carolina.

Marcus Lattimore on his decision…
First off, I want to say I appreciate Coach Spurrier for that introduction. When I decided to come her, he told me, we’re going to run the ball and he stuck to his word and I got to play for an SEC legend. This has easily been the best three years of my life. With that being said, I’m going to forgo my senior season and enter the 2013 NFL Draft. There was a lot of praying and a lot of discussions with my family. I feel like that’s the best decision for me. That’s what I said when I came here. I felt like South Carolina was the best school for me and not anybody else. I did talk to Willis McGahee and talked to Frank Gore. I talked to all those guys and they all gave me some advice, but when it all came down to it, it was my decision to forgo my senior season.

I just want to say thank you to my family, especially my mom, dad, stepdad and all of my cousins for all of the support I’ve gotten throughout these years. You don’t know what it means to me to be sitting in the operating room and I know you’re on the way there. These have easily been the best three years of my life. I just want to say thank you to all the fans and my friends. I can easily say that we have the best fans in the country because we do. I’ve heard stories about when South Carolina was 0-11, 6-5 and they still packed the stadium out every Saturday and they’re doing it now. I know we’ve got the most loyal fans in the country because that doesn’t happen everywhere.

I just want to say thank you to all my amazing teammates. We’ve made some great memories, beating Alabama, beating Florida in “The Swamp”. We had a fun time here. I just appreciate all my teammates. I’d like to say thank you to Dr. Pastides, Coach Tanner and everybody in the administrative staff that helped me get through these three years. I want to say thank you to Dr. Guy. He’s been one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. He fixed my knee and got me ready for the season.

I’ve got to thank my athletic training staff – Clint, Rachel, Nate and all those guys. They got me back. We rehabbed every day and they were hard on me. We had some tough days, but they stood by my side all of them played a big part in my comeback. I want to thank the whole academic staff for pushing me to keep my grades up. It is a plan of mine to come back and finish my degree. I really don’t have too much left. South Carolina is always going to be my home. I’m willing to come back here when my career is over and do whatever is asked of me. I love this state and I’m glad to say I’ll be a Gamecock forever. Thank you for all your continued support and God bless Gamecock nation.