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Lattimore's future is now discussed in economic terms

By John Clayton, Staff Reporter
Published on Saturday, November 3, 2012

Now that it has all sunk in a little with Gamecock nation and football fans all around the Upstate, people are wondering aloud -- what is Marcus Lattimore's future?

Even the head ball coach himself, Steve Spurrier, said Lattimore is probably the most beloved Gamecock in program history and fans around here started their love affair with him even before he arrived in Columbia when he starred at Byrnes.

But love has nothing to do with business, particulalry the business of the NFL.

Before the horrific knee injury that sidelined Lattimore a week ago against Tennessee, most figured the odds were that the all-SEC running bak was headed to the NFL Draft after finishing his third season at South Carolina.

But now what?

A severely damaged right knee to go with the surgically repaired left knee injured in 2011 at Mississippi State.

It would appear that 2013 in either the SEC or NFL is out of the question.

If Lattimore returns to football -- and messages are being relayed through Spurrier and others that he plans to -- he will do it in 2014.

But will it be in a Gamecocks uniform or in that of an NFL team that is willing to gamble on Lattimore's once sure-thing potential?

Either way, the multi-million-dollar first-round contract Lattimore would have once surely earned is no more.

But signing with an NFL team with long-term vision -- New England, Indianapolis or the New York Giants -- with the understanding that he would not play until 2014 could get him into the NFL, but with neither the guarantees nor the guaranteed money of a first-round pick.

His best chance for all of that is a return to the Gamecocks in 2014, which will probably mean a backfield timeshare with Mike Davis, and the possibility to re-impress NFL Scouts.

The good news for Lattimore is that he was never a back who built his game on pure speed. His is a combination of speed, power and elusiveness he surely hopes will come back over the next 20 months or so.

Guys who lose a step don't usually last long in professional football, but the guys who never ran the 4.3-second 40 can overcome that with other skills.

It's hard to say what Lattimore will do.

But it's even harder to find someone who doesn't wish him the best in whatever he decides for his future.

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