Marcus Lattimore - San Francisco 49ers' 'country boy' - comes to Charleston

  • Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014 11:48 a.m., Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 11:17 p.m.
Former USC running back Marcus Lattimore says he has recovered from his knee injury and will be ready to play for San Francisco next season.

It was an unnatural fit, the self-described "country boy" isolated in a big city across the continent.

Lattimore in Charleston

Friday

Lowcountry Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet, Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant. Starts at 6 p.m. Ticket information at www.lowcountryfca.org.

Saturday

First Choice Fit MVP Camp at The Citadel featuring Lattimore and former Clemson QB Woody Dantzler. Registration is $100. Campers ages 10-17 from 8 a.m. to noon; ages 5-9 from 2-6 p.m. For information, go to everettsm.com or call (864) 350-1222.

Ten months ago, Marcus Lattimore left his South Carolina home. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the NFL draft, sent packing 2,700 miles away from the only land he'd ever known. Lattimore admits there was culture shock. As he rehabilitated an injured knee that stole his rookie season, the former Gamecocks tailback missed more than the football field.

"I'm a country boy, and that's a big city," Lattimore told The Post and Courier this week.

"From San Francisco to San Jose, all the cities around it - it's a huge change. There's not too many open fields you see.

"It was a culture shock, and I miss home. I'll say that. When I'm done with football, this is where I will live, South Carolina. It's what I'm used to, and it's what I love."

In his year out of college, Lattimore adjusted to more than a new team in a new league. Away from the game, he adapted to a new life.

Eventually, he settled down. Lattimore loves the food in San Francisco. The East Coast native appreciates West Coast weather. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the Pacific Ocean, the big city has started to feel like home. Lattimore is comfortable, singularly focused on helping the 49ers win their sixth Super Bowl.

Still, he misses South Carolina.

During offseason breaks, Lattimore stays in the Palmetto State. He chose to continue his knee rehab in Greenville, but Lattimore isn't confined to the upstate.

He'll make two appearances in the Charleston area over the weekend. On Friday, Lattimore will be at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant for a banquet to benefit the Lowcountry Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Lattimore also will be a counselor at the First Choice Fit MVP Camp at The Citadel on Saturday.

"I'm from South Carolina, born and raised," Lattimore said. "I went to school there. I mean, I love South Carolina. That's the reason why I do this. There's no other reason. I love South Carolina, I love the people here, and I'm excited about this weekend coming up and the camp also. It'll be fun."

At some point this weekend, Lattimore will likely be asked about his recovery. The question has followed him everywhere, with adoring fans wanting to know about his long road back to health.

Lattimore tore several ligaments and dislocated his knee in the first half of a game against Tennessee on Oct. 26, 2012. The injury came on his last carry inside Williams-Brice Stadium. His next carry will come during the 2014 season.

In between, Lattimore has had his second exhaustive comeback from knee injury. It's a slow process, but one Lattimore is confident will be complete by next season.

"Finally, I feel balanced. I feel balanced on both legs," Lattimore said. "My workouts have been going good. . I can't wait to get out there next year and play, because it's been a year out of football and that's something I've never experienced. I'm really excited about it. I'm getting my speed back, getting my quickness back day by day. So everything's going good, and my knee feels good."

In San Francisco, Lattimore has found a mentor in perennial Pro Bowl tailback Frank Gore. He'll likely play behind Gore in the 49ers backfield this fall, learning from one of the game's best. Even in a backup role, Lattimore keeps high expectations for himself.

"They're going to want me to be that complete back," Lattimore said. "I want to emulate everything that Frank Gore does, because he does everything well. That's the main thing I want to do. I want to emulate my game after him because it's worked for him for 10 years. That's the main thing.

"I want to go out there, and of course I want to score some touchdowns, get a few yards any way I can. Just help the team."

Finally, with his comeback almost complete, Lattimore can focus on more than his knee therapy. He's thought a lot about his new team this offseason, how close the 49ers were to the Super Bowl. San Francisco's season ended one game short, losing the NFC Championship game to its NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks.

Watching Seattle win the Super Bowl was hard. Much of his past year has been a challenge. Lattimore knows his team's potential next season is limitless.

Even across the country, Lattimore landed in familiar football surroundings. He's on a good team with a revered coach in Jim Harbaugh. He'll run behind a good offensive line. And he's focused on beating a bitter rival.

"I'd say it's about the same, to tell you the truth. Even though it's in a different state," Lattimore said, comparing the Seahawks to South Carolina's rivalry with Clemson.

"That stadium, Seattle's stadium, is the loudest stadium I've ever been to without question. They hate each other. I mean, they don't hate the players, but Seattle hates San Francisco and it definitely reminds me of Clemson-South Carolina a lot.

"We've got all the talent in the world. We just couldn't finish that game (against Seattle). We're going to try to finish it next year. We're going to win that Super Bowl, bring it back to San Francisco."

Rest assured, Lattimore would also bring it back to South Carolina.

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