Feb 18, 2013; Gulf Breeze, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore rehabbing in the hydro pool at the Andrews Institute Orthopedics and Sports Medicine following his October 2012 injury tearing his right anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. Lattimore declared himself eligible during a press conference back in December 2012 for the 2013 NFL Draft and plans to attend the NFL scouting combine this week in Indianapolis. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft: Marcus Lattimore Reaches A Milestone In A Long Road

Marcus Lattimore might have been a first round selection had NFL rules allowed the South Carolina Gamecocks running back to enter the 2011 draft.

The 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American rushed for a hair below 1200 yards and 17 touchdowns in his debut campaign. Lattimore tacked on another 412 yards receiving and two scores for good measure. Aside from Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James, he was arguably the best running back in college football that season.

“I’ve made a point to tell the world, if you’ve got Marcus Lattimore on your team, he makes everybody else better,” South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said in the SEC spring teleconference on Tuesday. “He’s the first guy in the meeting rooms, in the weight room, in the workouts. He does a little extra. He does everything you ask, and then a little more.”

That extra mile may not have received its due attention when Lattimore was among the nation’s top running backs in 2010. The circumstances that brought Lattimore’s work ethic are unfortunate, but it’s been rewarded.

As a likely first rounder after just one season, Lattimore could surely only improve on his stock. At least, it seemed that way. The future is never given, which Lattimore’s unfortunate twist of fate can testify.

Tommy Tomlinson wrote an excellent piece for Sports On Earth about Lattimore’s luck and how it impacted the running back’s future.

Last October when Lattimore tore ligaments in his knee — the knee that wasn’t surgically repaired a year earlier — his football career seemed very much in doubt.

But as was the case when Lattimore suffered two different devastating knee injuries, the future isn’t given. Lattimore battled back with astounding brevity and inspiring determination.

His teammates and coaches believed in him. Spurrier said in the days immediately following Lattimore’s injury, “We’re optimistic his football days are ahead of him.”

And Lattimore believed.

If his knee injuries are evidence of bad luck, the San Francisco 49ers’ selection of Lattimore in Saturday’s NFL draft is a statement to hard work.

Tags: Football NFL Draft South Carolina Gamecocks

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