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'Tell ‘em I’ll be back'

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South Carolina’s celebration, not memorial service, brought thousands to the steps of McKissick Museum on The Horseshoe on Monday afternoon. Gamecocks everywhere were downtrodden when Marcus Lattimore was carted off the field with a major knee injury in Saturday's 38-35 win over Tennessee.

Monday, however, was to be a party for Lattimore, who turned 21.

Sitting at his home in Duncan, Lattimore watched as a crowd of better than 2,000 people gathered to wish him the best. There were birthday cards signed, balloons, and posters. Fans wore No. 21 jerseys, brought signs, and chanted his name.

Team chaplain Adrian Despres, who led the crowd in prayer, started a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” and there were also several notable guests.

Head coach Steve Spurrier addressed the crowd and delivered some strong news from the school’s all-time leader in touchdowns.

“We’re going to get Marcus for four or five years instead of three.”

Vice president of the United States Joe Biden sent Lattimore a message that was read aloud to the audience. Senator Lindsey Graham spoke and offered words from Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin.

Spurrier also read a note from governor Nikki Haley, who declared October 29 as Marcus Lattimore Day in the state of South Carolina.

“This is not a memorial service. This is a happy birthday for Marcus Lattimore,” Spurrier said. “It is an appreciation for everything he’s done and is going to continue to do for the University of South Carolina.”

Teammates Dylan Thompson and Kenny Miles, who were flanked by a dozen or so other players, both spoke and offered words of encouragement and shared how Lattimore has impacted their lives.

While the program went on, with Lattimore watching, he sent Despres a text message that the chaplain read to the crowd.

“The love and support I have from Gamecock Nation has kept my spirits up,” Lattimore’s text message said. “All I can say is simply, ‘Thank you and God Bless you all.’ I will fight to get better and pursue the road God has planned for me. God never makes mistakes.”

Spurrier took the stage moments later and said Lattimore’s message to the crowd was, “Tell ‘em I’ll be back.”

The thousands lining the tip of The Horseshoe erupted. Lattimore will be back at Williams-Brice.

More on Lattimore

Spurnotes: More on Lattimore - TheBigSpur.com publisher Tony Morrell has more on Lattimore's situation, including his current mindset and what the rehabilitation process will be like.
Spurrier discusses Lattimore’s injury - South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier talks about the extent of Lattimore’s injury and the chance he could play again at South Carolina.
Heartbroken - South Carolina players and coaches react to Lattimore’s injury in the moments following the 38-35 win over Tennessee. Also, read tweets from around the web in this tribute to one of the best to ever play at Carolina.
Team physician details Lattimore’s injury - Team physician, Dr. Jeffrey Guy, provides some greater detail on the extent of Lattimore’s injury.

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