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Lattimore amazes, inspires at Pro Day

Posted Mar 27, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. – When Marcus Lattimore finished his personal drill circuit in the Gamecocks' weight room at South Carolina Pro Day on Wednesday, there was immediate applause.

Applause from scouts, applause from coaches, applause from friends and family, applause from anyone who watched him step and jump and lunge with a brace on his surgically repaired right knee.

"Everybody has a story, everybody is going to go through something," Lattimore said after catching some passes at Williams-Brice Stadium. "And in my case it was an injury."

The injury occurred on Oct. 27, 2012, against Tennessee, the Gamecocks' ninth game of the season.

The star running back took a direct hit to his right knee. He reportedly dislocated the knee and tore the anterior cruciate, lateral collateral and posterior cruciate ligament. He was carted off the field.

It was gruesome. It was heartbreaking. No one outside the program could have expected Lattimore to perform for scouts at South Carolina's Pro Day just five months later.

But Lattimore knew he'd be ready to show off his progress. He told his teammates as much.

"Fans are probably shocked, but I'm not shocked at all," safety D.J. Swearinger said. "That's the guy he is. He's always going to work as hard as he can.

"Marcus told me before we all left to start training that he would be ready for Pro Day."

There was a lot of nervous energy in the room as Lattimore strapped on the knee brace and got ready to start his first footwork drill. Lattimore even admitted he was "a little nervous."

Everyone observing Lattimore in that suddenly silent weight room surely had the devastating hit against Tennessee replaying in their minds. The image of Lattimore looking down at his shredded knee. The image of both teams surrounding the running back as trainers tended to him.

But here he was, performing the ladder drill, box jumps, step ups, lunges, reverse lunges and balancing on his right leg while wearing a weighted vest.

South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney looked on proudly as he and other teammates cheered on "2-1."

"Like Adrian Peterson," Clowney said as Lattimore went from one drill to the next. "Back in action."

Carolina Panthers cornerback and former Gamecock Captain Munnerlyn watched in amazement.

"That dude is doing stuff I can't do now," Munnerlyn said with a laugh.

His mother cried. When the drills were over, Lattimore wiped the sweat off his face and then shared in plenty of hugs and kisses with family and friends.

And Lattimore heard the round of cheers.

"That felt great," he said.

That hit and this unforgettable injury are forever a part of Lattimore's story, but he's working to make sure he's remembered for rushing yards, broken tackles and touchdowns – not the horrific injury that would end his college career.

"I'm working hard to get back on the field and be that complete running back very soon," Lattimore said. "I know I still have a lot of work to do."

Lattimore said he's aiming to play in an NFL game early in the 2013 season.

He has countless fans across the country rooting for him, anxiously waiting for that day to come. And that support drives him during this remarkable, inspirational comeback.

"That's really who I am doing it for, with all the love I've received," Lattimore said. "Everything is going to be alright. The knee is still good, and I'm progressing. I'll be ready."

And we'll all be watching.