Gene Sapakoff: Marcus Lattimore remains the face of Gamecocks elite football run
There will be tears. Not just from Marcus Lattimore, who officially will announce he is turning pro today at a 4 p.m. news conference in Columbia.
All across Gamecock Nation, and probably from head coach Steve Spurrier.
Lattimore’s brief, shining tenure as a South Carolina running back ended sadly Oct. 27 during the Gamecocks’ 38-35 victory over Tennessee. It was a severe knee injury heard ‘round the football world, college and the NFL.
The junior from Duncan has been a class act, and a bundle of unprecedented feats and heartache.
Lattimore ends his South Carolina career as the Gamecocks’ career leader in touchdowns (41) and touchdowns rushing (38).
He led South Carolina to three straight wins against Georgia.
Strangely, he played in only 29 games, rushed for a grand total of 48 yards against Clemson and didn’t take part in a bowl win.
But Georgia head coach Mark Richt knew something was different at South Carolina early in the 2010 season when Lattimore as a freshman rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries in a 17-6 victory in Columbia.
“Steve,” Richt said to Spurrier after the game, “you’ve got a heck of a team.”
That was the turning point for South Carolina in its rise from a pretty good program to a three-year SEC title contender. The Gamecocks went on to win its first SEC East crown in 2010, won a school-best 11 games in 2011 and takes a 10-2 record to the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl.
Lattimore is the face of this elite run, the classy and productive ambassador for a program unfamiliar with such relatively sustained success.
That is his legacy.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff