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'I'll be a Gamecock forever'

Running back Marcus Lattimore made his intentions official late Wednesday afternoon announcing that he will enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Speaking publicly for the first time since after the Florida game, South Carolina’s All-American revealed it was a difficult decision, but one that was right for him at this time.

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore announced on Wednesday that he will skip his final year and enter the NFL Draft

Lattimore, less than six weeks from his surgery, walked without the aid of crutches into the media room at Williams-Brice Stadium flanked by head coach Steve Spurrier and team physician Jeff Guy.

Spurrier spoke first, introducing Guy, who detailed Lattimore’s injury. There were positives and negatives but the good news certainly outweighed the bad. Three ligaments were torn in Lattimore’s right knee, which was injured on October 27 against Tennessee, including the ACL.

The good news, though, was that all of the nerves and blood vessels stayed intact. There were no broken bones and Guy was able to repair all of the ligaments. Only the ACL had to be rebuilt. Had there been damage to the nerves or blood vessels, the outlook may not be as rosy for Lattimore, who, doctors say, will need 12 to 15 months to fully recover and return to the field.

“His surgery went great. He’s done absolutely perfect the last four to five weeks,” Guy said. “He’s closing in on six weeks, started walking. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to hold him back. I examined his knee, gave him a full exam last week, and it details great. All of his ligaments are doing perfect and he’s perfectly on course.”

Guy added that there are no plans to have another surgery as his knee is “doing perfectly fine.”

Lattimore became the school record holder earlier this season in both career touchdowns (41) and rushing touchdowns (38). He has 2,677 total yards in his career, which places him sixth on the school’s all-time list.

In the mind of the Head Ball Coach, Lattimore has been the face of the program from a student-athlete perspective. Lattimore, who says he’s close to graduating, will come back and finish his degree.

“The leadership and what he’s done for us is why the University of South Carolina is now a football program of significance, but our university is talked about around the country,” Spurrier said. “Everywhere I go, people know we’ve had some success and are going to top-notch bowl games. It really all happened three years ago; it happened when Marcus Lattimore said, ‘I’m coming to the University of South Carolina.’”

Lattimore thanks the fans for their support throughout his career. He mentioned that he has received well wishes from all over the country as he rehabs his second significant knee injury.

With that said, Lattimore took the floor and thanked Spurrier, a man he called an SEC legend, his family, friends, teammates, and fans.

“This has easily been the best three years of my life,” Lattimore said, immediately before announcing his decision. “There was a lot of praying, a lot of discussion with my family, and I feel like this is the best decision for me.”

Teary-eyed, Lattimore recounted some of his best memories. Whether it was the upset of top-ranked Alabama or clinching an SEC title against Florida in The Swamp, he said he’ll remember all the time with his teammates.

“South Carolina is always going to be my home. I’m willing to come back here when my career is over and do whatever is asked of me. I love this state and I’m glad to say I’ll be a Gamecock forever.”

Lattimore, who has not secured an agent at this time, said that he plans to go to the NFL Combine but he will not be able to participate in any drills. It’s too soon to say, according to Lattimore, where he’ll be drafted as it will depend on what team doctors see when he’s evaluated at the Combine.

“History has shown you can come back full go,” Spurrier said. “His other knee, he came back full go from it. Time heals everything. I think everybody senses why Marcus is the most popular player I think has ever played here.”

Spurrier said that he “100 percent agrees” with Lattimore’s decision to skip his senior year and head for the NFL.

“I know it’s going to be tough,” Lattimore said of going to the next level. “All the guys I talk to say the level of competition is even but the guys who put in more work in the film room and on your technique, those are the guys who last the longest - the guys who are the smartest.”

Following the press conference, Spurrier said he would like to see Lattimore attend the bowl game in some capacity. He said that given Lattimore’s professional status, the school would not be able to pay Lattimore’s way to the bowl game.

South Carolina will begin bowl practice this Saturday in preparation for the Outback Bowl against Michigan.

More on Marcus

Behind the scenes of Lattimore's decision - Get a behind the scenes look from publisher Tony Morrell of how Lattimore's decision was made, where he will land in the NFL Draft, and how he's impacted the school.

Lattimore will turn pro - learned on Monday that Lattimore would make his intentions clear this week that he would skip his final year of eligibility and take his game to the NFL.

Videos from Lattimore's press conference - Lattimore, Spurrier, and Guy met with the media on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the decision. Watch how it all transpired in this series of three videos.

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