Lattimore’s last move as a Gamecock is a leap to NFL

South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore officially announced his decision to forego his final year of college eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL Draft on Wednesday at a press conference at Williams-Brice Stadium.

A highly-touted recruit from Byrnes High School, Lattimore burst onto the scene quickly at the collegiate level. In just his second game for the Garnet & Black, the six-foot, 218-pounder rushed 37 times for 182 yards leading Carolina to a win over Georgia. It was the first of four 100-yard rushing games on the season and the first of three in his career against the Bulldogs. He later set the school single-game record with 40 carries for 212 yards at Florida, as the Gamecocks clinched their first SEC Eastern Division title.

Lattimore finished his first campaign with 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns, both freshman records at South Carolina. For his efforts, Lattimore was a unanimous choice for National Freshman of the Year. He was also the SEC Freshman of the Year and earned a spot on the first-team All-SEC unit. He was a first-team All-American by CollegeFootballNews.com and a second-team selection by Walter Camp.

The Duncan, S.C. product was headed toward a Heisman Trophy-type season in 2011. He logged three consecutive 100-yard rushing games to open the season, including a career-best 246-yard, three-touchdown effort in a win over Navy. His season ended prematurely when he suffered a left knee injury in the win at Mississippi State in game seven. He finished the season with 818 yards on 163 carries, an average of 5.0 yards per carry. Despite playing in just seven games, he still earned second-team All-SEC accolades and was a member of the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.

“This has easily been the best three years of my life. With that being said, I’m going to forgo my senior season and enter the 2013 NFL Draft,” Lattimore said. “There was a lot of praying and a lot of discussions with my family. I feel like that’s the best decision for me. That’s what I said when I came here. I felt like South Carolina was the best school for me and not anybody else.

Lattimore worked extremely hard in the off-season rehabilitating his knee and was ready to take the field when the 2012 season got underway. He quickly erased any doubts about his comeback with a 23-carry, 110-yard, two-touchdown effort in the season opening win at Vanderbilt, which earned him SEC Offensive Player of the Week accolades for the fourth time in his career. Lattimore logged three 100-yard rushing games in 2012, including back-to-back efforts at Kentucky and versus Georgia. He was on his way to another 100-yard game against Tennessee when he suffered a season-ending right knee injury. He was named honorable mention All-SEC by the Associated Press.

Lattimore leaves as one of the Gamecock all-time greats. He finished his career with 2,677 rushing yards, sixth on Carolina’s all-time list. He is the school record-holder in both rushing touchdowns (38) and touchdowns scored (41). He ranks fourth in rushing attempts (555), third in points scored (246 – most among non-kickers) and tied for second in 100-yard rushing games (11).

“Let me tell you where we were three years ago. I’d been here five years, as some sports writers said, I was a pedestrian 35-28,” Spurrier said. “We were averaging seven wins and five to six losses a year. Then we signed Marcus Lattimore. In the last three years, we’ve won 30 games, we’ve won the SEC Eastern Division, we beat Georgia three times, we beat Tennessee three times, we beat Clemson three times, we beat Florida two out of three, we were 11-1 against those three teams, we got our first 11-win season, first top-10 ever. It’s all happened the last three years.”

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