Running back Marcus Lattimore likely didn't envision spending his 21st birthday on Monday nursing an injured knee after his well publicized injury, but the people of South Carolina made it memorable.
Gov. Nikki Haley proclaimed it "Marcus Lattimore Day," and a support rally was held on campus for Lattimore.
"Michael and I ask every South Carolinian to join our family as we lift up in prayer Marcus Lattimore and his mother Yolanda Smith during this challenging time," Haley said, according to the Herald in Rock Hill. "He has been more than just a Carolina football player — he is a great role model for our state."
Lattimore has a reputation for being a high-character person, and that was probably a big reason for the large crowd that showed up to the rally. GamecockCentral.com estimated 2,000-3,000 people showed up for the rally.
According to GamecockCentral.com, team chaplain Adrian Despres read a text message from Lattimore that said, "The love and support I have received from Gamecock nation has kept my spirits up, and all I can say is thank you, and God bless you all."
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier addressed the crowd, said Lattimore told him he plans to play again, and guessed that Lattimore might be the most popular player the school has had.
"This is not a memorial service," Spurrier said. "This is a happy birthday to Marcus and an appreciation for everything he's done and is going to continue to do for South Carolina."
University president Harris Pastides, who shared well wishes from Vice President Joe Biden, said Lattimore watched the ceremony at the rally on the Internet.
Lattimore has a long way back from the brutal knee injury, but Monday's outpouring of support from South Carolina's fans should provide him some inspiration.
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