COLUMBIA — Injured South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore will enter the NFL draft, said people familiar with the decision.
One person said Monday that Lattimore is expected to announce his decision later this week. The people spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because there has not been an official statement regarding Lattimore’s decision.
The running back suffered a horrific injury to his right knee against Tennessee on Oct. 27. Doctors said Lattimore had successful surgery to repair several ligaments on Nov. 2. It is unclear when he’ll be able to return to the field.
Lattimore injured his left knee in 2011 as a sophomore. He rushed for 662 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, both team highs. He is South Carolina’s career leader in both overall touchdowns with 41 and rushing scores with 38.
Lattimore did not immediately answer a text message or phone call from The AP. ESPN first reported Lattimore’s intention to declare for the draft.
Lattimore had been South Carolina’s primary offensive force the past three seasons, starting from the time he stepped on campus as a freshman in 2010.
He missed the final six games of 2011 after tearing a knee ligament at Mississippi State. Lattimore had surgery on the left knee and plunged himself into rehab, returning for summer workouts with his teammates in early June.
Lattimore showed few effects from the injury this season. He had three games with at least 100 yards rushing and appeared on the way to a fourth against the Vols when he was hurt again.
His left leg flopped to the turf and Lattimore struggled to contain his emotions in a silent Williams-Brice Stadium. Players from both teams surrounded Lattimore as doctors and trainers worked on the knee, praying and offering best wishes.
Two days later, South Carolina held a rally on campus to celebrate Lattimore’s 21st birthday and wish him well in his recovery. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier told the crowd he gotten a message from Lattimore to tell them, “I’ll be back.”
On Nov. 10 against Arkansas, the school unveiled Lattimore’s name and touchdown record on the facing of one of the stadium’s spiral ramps. Lattimore had a taped message to fans on the stadium’s large video board, saying he felt fine and was “working to get back to football.”
Lattimore might not have made the field this season away, Spurrier saying doctors told him rehabilitation might’ve taken about a year. Lattimore had a redshirt year available at South Carolina and could’ve played for the Gamecocks in 2014.
Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns in 13 games as a freshman. He helped the Gamecocks win the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and play in the league title game, where they fell to Auburn 56-17
Lattimore ends his South Carolina sixth in rushing with 2,677 yards and had 11 games with 100 yards or more. He also had 74 catches for 767 yards and three touchdowns in his career.