Marcus Lattimore joined South Carolina’s running backs in the meeting room last week as the Gamecocks continued preparations for the Birmingham Bowl.
His talk to the group was more about the big picture and less about any one game or season.
“There’s more to football than the actual football,” redshirt freshman A.J. Turner said of Lattimore’s message. “It’s about connections. It’s about who you know and how you treat others.”
Lattimore, named head coach of the Heathwood Hall football team last month, is one of the most beloved players in South Carolina football history. He rushed for 2,677 yards and had 41 touchdowns with the Gamecocks, and he is regarded for his off-field character.
His football career was cut short by a pair of knee injuries suffered in college. The San Francisco 49ers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but he never played. After retiring from football, he returned to USC and completed his degree.
He’s a regular on the speaking circuit throughout South Carolina and meets with the Gamecocks’ running backs as often as he can. There was some one-on-one time with Lattimore last week to talk football and Turner’s season that included 448 rushing yards (second best on the team) and three total touchdowns.
“He’s always willing to put his neck out there for people,” Turner said. “You don’t really get that a lot anymore. You don’t get a lot of people that are willing to do whatever to help you out.”
Lattimore was set to take an off-field position in Muschamp’s Beyond Football initiative until the NCAA ruled it would violate rules because of Lattimore’s simultaneous involvement with youth football players through his foundation.
“He’s a Gamecock. He’s always going to be a Gamecock,” Muschamp said earlier this year. “He’s going to always be involved in our program.”
Turner, who is from Clifton, Va., admitted to not being familiar with Lattimore until joining the Gamecocks in 2015.
“Everybody knows who he is. He’s really a nice guy,” Turner said. “I was really grateful to listen to him. ... Now that I know him, I can see what everybody sees in him.”