“Where there is unity there is always victory.” – Publilius Syrus
Bruce Ellington takes the snap and runs right, following his blockers. He finds an opening and cuts down the field for a 13-yard gain and a big first down. Gamecock fans all around the country cheer.
Wait…there is a player down…who is it?
Every Gamecock fan around the country had their eyes glued to the game during those fateful moments. They saw the replay of the hit. They saw him go down. They saw him stay down. South Carolina won that day, but there was an empty feeling all around Gamecock Nation.
The next day Steve Spurrier stood up and confirmed what everyone was dreading; “Our worst fears have been realized.”
The Gamecocks have lost Marcus Lattimore for the rest of the season.
Or have we?
Whenever you hear anybody who knows him talk about Marcus, what do they really say? Though they admire and appreciate his production on the field what is it that they always seem to talk about first?
It is rarely his height or weight, and I can’t say I have heard many be gush about his speed.
Instead they talk about is his character. They rave about his tireless work ethic and his leadership. They speak about how everyone on the team loves him because of who he is as a person rather than what he does on the field.
Lattimore changed the South Carolina program. He took a team that was taking small steps in the right direction and taught it how to run at a full sprint.
No matter the time or the place Lattimore was (and is) ready and willing to give everything he has. Never reveling in personal glory, Lattimore always seems more comfortable giving credit to God and his teammates. He didn’t come to Columbia with a loud mouth and an entitled attitude that most top recruits have, instead he worked to prove himself day by day until he had his teammates’ and coaches’ full respect and attention.
It didn’t take long.
That attitude is what legends are made of and is something you can’t manufacture. It is what every coach dreams of finding in the recruiting process and is something that stays with a program far longer than the actual player himself.
That is why we haven’t truly lost Lattimore. He has become as much an attitude and a mentality as he is a person. It’s one thing for a coach to sit a player down and tell them they need to give their all everyday. It is another for a fellow teammate to show them what giving their all really means. It’s a domino effect that continues on for a long time, with one player passing it on to the next. Individuals like Marcus Lattimore are once in a generation; the player that can bring a championship mentality to such a level that it saturates itself in that program for years to come.
Lattimore, and his mentality, aren’t just going to disappear because of an injury. You can bet he will find new ways to encourage and lead his teammates. His production will be missed, but the unity that has surrounded this team because of his injury is invaluable as well. South Carolina knows it has been through as many trails, dealt with as much frustration, and put up with as much criticism as any team in the country.
Yet they are still finding ways to win. They still control their own destiny in the SEC East. They are unified.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
This isn’t the same team as last year. That team, though good, would crumble without Marcus because the players didn’t have time to learn the lesson he was teaching; “I am good because of what I do behind the scenes, now you do it too.”
Brandon Wilds is a talent and will perform very well. Kenny Miles is underrated and people forget the success he had in 2009 too quickly. Bruce Ellington is a raw athlete who was the biggest commit that was never recruited to the South Carolina program.
All three will take snaps at running back and will find success. All three are legitimate SEC talent. All three have the ability to lead South Carolina back to Atlanta.
This team has the maturity to take a series of unfortunate events and use them as a rally cry. They are the most unified team in the country. Lattimore won’t be there to score that game-winning touchdown this year, but you can bet he takes comfort in knowing he has substantial talent in the players behind him. He showed them what takes, now it’s time for them to show him they were paying attention.
I have no doubt they were.
Steve Spurrier said the Gamecocks won the SEC East the day they signed Marcus Lattimore. That was before he ever took a snap in a game or participated in a workout. I think he recognized that Marcus Lattimore the player is very good, but Marcus Lattimore the teammate is amazing.
Hollywood better hurry up and secure the rights because the story that is unfolding before our eyes would put any sports movie to shame.
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson