What do you guys think is he worth a R2 pick?
PENSACOLA, Fla. — Marcus Lattimore shocked his world-renowned surgeon, not only with an unprecedented speedy recovery from a complete knee rebuild but with his first words after the complex November surgery.
The former University of South Carolina star expressed two concerns to James Andrews on Nov. 2 following the 2½-hour surgery to piece together the shredded ligaments of the running back's right knee.
First he wanted to know if they were able to fix all the damage (torn ACL, LCL and PCL) he suffered six days prior in the ninth game of his junior season. They had.
Next, Lattimore wanted to get to work on his environmental science homework, due online that night.
"He said, 'I've got to get my assignment in by midnight tonight,' "recalls Andrews, "I was laughing. I've never had an athlete wake up from major knee surgery and worry about the classroom. That tells you something about the kid, right?"
At the Andrews Institute, the doctor's staff would learn much more about Lattimore. The 21-year-old was determined to turn the second major knee injury of his career into the next great NFL comeback story. Andrews says he's three months ahead of schedule in his recovery and has gained 20 pounds of muscle. The surgeon maintains it's possible Lattimore could play in 2013.
OPTIMISTIC APPROACH: Lattimore believes he will play in 2013
"I want to be an inspiration," Lattimore tells USA TODAY Sports. "To let people know that with hard work, and when you trust in God, you can come back from anything and do anything."
'I know he's not afraid'
As South Carolina won its final three regular season games to finish 11-2, Lattimore weighed his options. If he stayed in school, he could restore his once-booming draft stock. If he declared himself pro eligible, he could finish the semester and spend the next few months at the Andrews Institute and the Athletes' Performance facility, with his agent footing the bill. It could mean less money if and when he was drafted.
In his mind, there was no if.
"I wanted to come down because I knew the reputation they had with guys with knee injuries," Lattimore says. "If I had stayed in school I wouldn't have been able to come down here and get the best treatment in the world and be ready to go."
But Lattimore wasn't thinking football when he awoke following surgery: That online quiz was done 30 minutes before the midnight deadline.
"I don't remember doing it," says Lattimore, grinning beneath a black skull cap covering corn-rowed hair.
By then, Lattimore had ditched a desire to quit the game after tearing an ACL for the second time in little more than a year. His sophomore season ended with a major, yet far less serious knee injury.
"The day I got hurt again, I said, I know I'm done," he says. "Those first two weeks after surgery, it's hurting every day. You can't sleep. You're by yourself a lot. I knew I didn't want to go through that again."