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November 1, 2012

Guest Post: Marcus Lattimore, one of the good guys

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I’ve never actually met Marcus Lattimore.

I’ve gotten high fives from him as he passes through Gamecock Village during the Gamecock walk, and have waved to him from my seats near the field behind the team in Williams-Brice Stadium the past 3 years. I sat back in early February in 2010, glued to my work computer (don’t tell anyone in my office) in the early evening as his press conference was streamed online to find out once and for all that he was going to be a Gamecock. I’ve followed his practice reports and remember with a smile his break-out game that hot and steamy September afternoon against Georgia. He burst onto the college football scene and into our hearts that day. No, I’ve never actually met him- we’re not even Facebook friends- so why did I physically hurt on Saturday when I saw him lying on the field surrounded by medical professionals and his visibly shaken teammates?

The answer is quite simple. Marcus Lattimore, the person, is bigger than rushing yards or touchdown records. He’s bigger than SEC titles or pep rallies. He’s bigger than football games or autographed jerseys. Marcus Lattimore is loved because he shows us daily that there are good people left out there, and that sometimes the ‘good guys’ really can win.

He’s a team-first guy who doesn’t take credit for an amazing performance without thanking the offensive linemen for opening up a running lane. He doesn’t dance in the end zone after each touchdown. No- he just flips the ball to the ref and hugs his teammates with a smile on his face. He visits hospitals when he hears of fans or friends who are ill. He makes time to speak in churches and stands up for what he believes in.

Coming back from last year’s knee injury wasn’t easy for Marcus Lattimore. The hours of painful rehab he endured could’ve made it easy for him to rest on what he’d already accomplished for the Garnet and Black and just decide it would never quite be the same. Laying on the field Saturday after one of the most gruesome injuries most of us have ever seen, he was obviously shaken. HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? AGAIN?? TO HIM??? We were all thinking it; most of us said it aloud. He had to be thinking it too.

There have probably been some dark moments for Marcus these past few days. And- if we’re all honest with ourselves- there are probably even darker moments for him to come as he begins the long road to recovering from this latest setback.. Then, last night on Twitter I saw this picture. Marcus, sitting on a couch with a knee bandaged and propped up, smiling and giving us the #1 sign. “Tell them I’ll be back,” he said to Coach Spurrier just a few days earlier.

The experts say it’ll be tough for Marcus Lattimore to come back from this. Heck, none of us could blame him if he decided it wasn’t worth it anymore; after all, it’s just a game. If anyone can do it though, I’d say Marcus can. He’ll show us all how to take a setback in life and against all odds come back stronger than ever. He’ll demonstrate how to let terrible circumstances make us better as people rather than give us an excuse to be bitter. Marcus will run back on a field someday and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something most people don’t have the fortitude to do, and he’ll inspire us all to be better people. His smile is special because he’s smiling in the face of a lifelong dream that could be further from reach than ever before. When we feel like giving up while enduring tough times in our own lives, maybe we can think about Marcus and know that setbacks are often in our lives to teach us about our own strength.

We may never get to meet Marcus in ‘real life,’ but we have a unique opportunity as Gamecock fans to let a 21 year old teach us something about being the best version of ourselves we can be. If we allow him to do that for us, then it truly doesn’t matter if we ever hear Todd Ellis’ booming voice say, “Touchdown Gamecocks! Touchdown Marcus Lattimore.” We’ll be able to celebrate one of the greatest to ever wear garnet and black and be thankful to be represented by a true class act.

Bad things happen to good people. It’s a fact of life. But- the truly amazing people in life rise above circumstances. They are defined by how they turn those bad situations into good lessons. I have no doubt Marcus will do that. I wish him a speedy recovery, and I hope he continues to feel the love and support of Gamecock Nation in the weeks and months ahead.

Post written by Gamecock Girl guest bloggess Jessica Faulkenberry.

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