You could see that Marcus Lattimore was NFL ready — as a freshman — on September 11, 2010. Sure the South Carolina running back was playing in only his second collegiate game, but he was a man amongst boys. Lattimore broke more than 40 Georgia Bulldog tackles on that Saturday at Williams Brice Stadium, churning out 182 yards on 37 carries in a 17-6 win.
Almost two and a half years later, Lattimore is here at the Combine trying to make a remarkable comeback. He is no longer a sure thing after suffering two devastating knee injuries the past two seasons as Lattimore tore his ACL as a sophomore and then tore three ligaments as a junior.
Perhaps the most important part of this Combine is the Medical review and Lattimore was checked out for close to four hours on Friday.
"Some said pretty good. Some said keep working," Lattimore said. "I think it went very well because a lot of guys were surprised by how strong my quads were, how strong my hamstrings were and how tight my ligaments were. I think it went OK."
The 21-year-old doesn't feel sorry for himself. Instead he is thankful for the moment and is determined to get back on the field.
"Me and (Georgia WR) Tavares King was just talking about in our room, how blessed we are to be here," he told a throng of reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium. "Just thinking about guys who are less fortunate than me — guys who would kill to be in my shoes right now. That's what keeps me going, that's what keeps me motivated knowing that people would kill to be in my shoes right now."
While Adrian Peterson's comeback provides Lattimore some additional motivation, the 6'0" back thinks he runs like another NFL bruiser.
"He runs like nobody's there, he runs with total destruction," Lattimore said of Peterson. "I feel like if I could compare my game to anybody, it would be Frank Gore. He has low pad level, he has great vision, he can see the whole field and (has) great balance."
Lattimore, who hopes to play in 2013 but doesn't intend to rush back and put his career in jeopardy, will interview with NFL teams tonight and tomorrow. And if/when he puts the pads back on, there won't be a change in style.
"I'm going to run the same way I usually do because that's all I know. I really can't change my game," he said. "It got me here and I feel like if I change my game — I'd be a different player. I'm just going to go out there with confidence, not thinking about my knee and just go out there and run like I usually do."
After his latest knee injury, Lattimore received an overwhelming amount of support. He is a high character athlete who has always carried himself in a dignified manner.
"The main thing they relayed to me is they didn't even talk about football," he said of the messages. "They just talked about what kind of person I was. There was an elementary school in Kentucky and they got on the field and made a 21 with the whole school. It was full of students and that really touched me. They said at the end, it's not about football — it's about the person I am. So that really touched me."
There is an aura about Lattimore. You hope to see his health progress over the next few months and it will be fascinating to see where he goes in the draft.
"You always root for that type of player. You never want somebody like that, playing at the caliber he was playing, to get injured like that — especially in both knees. So of course I'm rooting for him," said Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor. "Meeting him in this process, he is backing everything up that I thought. He seems like a good guy, a humble guy and a big guy with a deep voice. I'm praying for his comeback and I think he'll be very successful."