COLUMBIA — Injured South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore will enter the NFL draft, said people familiar with the decision.
One person said Monday that Lattimore is expected to announce his decision this week. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because there has not been an official statement.
The running back suffered a horrific injury to his right knee against Tennessee on Oct. 27. Doctors say Lattimore had successful surgery to repair several ligaments Nov. 2. It is unclear when he’ll be able to return to the field.
Lattimore injured his left knee in 2011 as a sophomore. He rushed for 662 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, both team highs. He is South Carolina’s career leader in overall touchdowns with 41 and rushing scores with 38.
Lattimore did not immediately answer a text message or phone call from The AP.
Lattimore was South Carolina’s primary offensive force the past three seasons, starting from the time he arrived as a freshman in 2010.
He missed the final six games of 2011 after tearing a knee ligament at Mississippi State. He had surgery on the left knee and plunged himself into rehab, returning for summer workouts with his teammates in early June.
Lattimore showed few effects from the injury this season. He had three games with at least 100 yards rushing and appeared on the way to a fourth against the Vols when he was hurt again.
Two days later, South Carolina held a rally on campus to celebrate Lattimore’s 21st birthday and wish him well in his recovery. Coach Steve Spurrier told the crowd that he had gotten a message from Lattimore to tell them, “I’ll be back.”
On Nov. 10 against Arkansas, the school unveiled Lattimore’s name and touchdown record on one of the stadium’s spiral ramps. Lattimore showed up in a taped message to fans
on the stadium’s video board, saying he felt fine and was “working to get back to football.”
Lattimore might not have made the field this season anyway, with Spurrier saying doctors told him that rehabilitation might have taken about a year. Lattimore had a redshirt year available and could have played for the Gamecocks in 2014.
Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns in 13 games as a freshman. He helped the Gamecocks win the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and play in the league title game, where they fell to Auburn 56-17.
Lattimore would end his South Carolina sixth in rushing with 2,677 yards and 11 games with 100 yards or more. He also had 74 catches for 767 yards and three touchdowns in his career.