Six months to the day after his college career was ended by a serious right knee injury, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth-round (No. 131 overall) of the 2013 NFL draft.
Lattimore, who suffered a season-ending left knee injury in 2011, likely would have been the top running back available in this year's draft if he was not recovering from surgery to repair multiple ligaments he tore in his right knee during an Oct. 27, 2012 game against Tennessee.
San Francisco is an ideal landing spot for Lattimore as they have outstanding depth at the running back position with Frank Gore starting and Kendall Hunter and 2012 second-round LaMichael James providing depth. The 49ers will likely place the 21-year-old Lattimore on a reserve list (such as physically unable to perform) and allow him to rehabilitate his injury with their own medical staff with an eye towards playing him in 2014 and perhaps taking on a bigger role as Gore is scheduled to be a free agent in 2015.
According to Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network, Gore reached out to Lattimore following his injury last October and the two backs have remained in touch. At the 2013 scouting combine, Lattimore compared his running style to Gore.
"I feel like we both run hard. He runs like nobody's there. He runs with total destruction," Lattimore said of Gore. "I feel like if I could compare my game to anybody, it would be Frank Gore. He's got low pads, he's got great vision, he can see the whole field. Great balance."
Lattimore burst onto the college football scene in 2010, earning NCAA Freshman of the Year honors was a first-team All-SEC selection after rushing for 1,197 yards and setting South Carolina records with 17 rushing touchdowns and 19 total touchdowns. His two knee injuries limited Lattimore to just 29 games in college, in which he ran for 2,677 yards with a school-record 38 touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 232-pound Lattimore is also regarded as a solid receiver out of the backfield, catching 29 passes for 412 yards as a freshman and finishing his Gamecocks career with 77 receptions for 767 yards and three touchdowns, giving him a school-record 41 touchdowns for his career.
Lattimore was not physically ready to compete at the combine or his pro day and said he was taking a long-term approach to his recovery.
"Definitely, it's very tough," Lattimore said at the combine. "You get frustrated. But you know it's the right thing for you, the right thing for your future. I have to think about long term. Rushing back may not be the right thing to do, but if I'm ready (to play this season), I'm ready."