Time to move on (copy)

Marcus Lattimore is returning to South Carolina as a member of the football staff. File/AP

COLUMBIA — He never really left, but Marcus Lattimore is officially coming home.

Lattimore will join South Carolina’s football staff as Director of Player Development/Director of Beyond Football, The Post and Courier has learned. Lattimore, the head coach at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, told his players Thursday and will be introduced at a press conference on Friday.

The move has long been brewing. Before Will Muschamp was even hired at USC, he reached out to Lattimore about potentially joining his staff. He wanted Lattimore to work in a non-coaching developmental role but the NCAA denied the request.

Lattimore couldn’t do it because of his Marcus Lattimore Foundation, which conducts camps for youth players all around the state. The NCAA’s rules are that Lattimore couldn’t run his camps and be associated with USC in an official role at the same time, since that presented a conflict of interest and Lattimore could potentially use his camps to steer recruits toward the Gamecocks.

The problem has been resolved. He’ll work with USC players to prepare for their lives beyond football while still running his camps, which will be limited to players that are below high school age.

Lattimore will speak to the Gamecocks about a topic he unfortunately knows too much about — what to do in life once there’s no more games to play. Players will learn about finding out who they are off the field, the importance of giving back to the community and fine-tuning skills to succeed after sports.

The program will require mandatory meetings between freshmen and the staff; one-on-one meetings with Lattimore at least once per semester to discuss progress towards goals off the field; and a “Real Talk” seven-week session spanning the summer that coaches players on finances, addiction, etiquette, interviewing for jobs and putting together a resume.

One of the most universally respected players in the game and one of the most cherished figures in USC football  history, Lattimore rushed for 2,677 yards in his three-year career, of which the final two were disrupted by severe knee injuries. He had the third-most prolific rushing season in school history in 2010, ranking only behind two from Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, as he led the Gamecocks to their only SEC East championship.

Lattimore left USC with career marks for rushing touchdowns (38) and total touchdowns (41) but wasn’t able to overcome his brutal second injury. He retired from pro football in 2014, returned to school, graduated and began coaching. He was hired as Heathwood’s B-team coach the same day he walked across the stage at USC’s commencement.

He was elevated to head varsity coach in November 2016. Coaching barely a mile from Williams-Brice Stadium, the pull of rejoining the Gamecocks in some role always stuck with Lattimore.

Now he’s able to.

“At the end of the day, the guy has an ability to relate with people, and that’s really the No. 1 job as a coach, to be a communicator and be able to positively affect people around you,” Muschamp said when Lattimore was hired at Heathwood. “He’s a great leader because of that. That’s why he was a great leader as a player here. That’s why, whatever he does in his life, he’s going to be a tremendous leader.”

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.