Marcus Lattimore speaks to the media on December 12, 2012.
Marcus Lattimore (Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE)
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - USC running back Marcus Lattimore has made it official: he's turning pro.
Lattimore made his annoucement Wednesday afternoon alongside USC Head Coach Steve Spurrier.
The star thanked his family, coaches, and the fans for his time at Carolina.
"These have been the best three years of my entire life," he said.
Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee back in October. It had been unclear for weeks if Lattimore would try to rehab his injury and return to Carolina, or if he would go pro. Monday, however, reports surfaced that he'd elected to enter the draft.
Lattimore didn't say when he made up his mind to leave Carolina, but emphasized that it was his decision. He made it after consulting with NFL players such as Willis McGahee and Frank Gore, who suffered knee injuries similar to the one Lattimore suffered. In fact, he said they actually reached out to him to offer advice.
Despite ending consecutive seasons with a knee injury (his other knee was hurt in 2011 in the Mississippi State game) he said he has no regrets about his time at Carolina.
"I wouldn't change anything that happened in the last three years," Lattimore said. "It made me a better man, a better person."
Someone who couldn't agree more with that assessment is Spurrier. The Head Ball Coach extolled the virtues of his star, crediting the player with much of the team's success over the last three seasons.
"Marcus is one of my favorite players...because he's an unselfish player who wants to do what's best for the team, and he's one of the most highly conditioned guys," Spurrier said.
In fact, Spurrier said Lattimore's been one of the best recruiters for the team, helping the Gamecocks reel in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and convincing Bruce Ellington to play football.
The coach also said he agreed "100 percent" with Lattimore's decision to leave USC.
Lattimore said from what he's learned from Dr. Jeff Guy, USC's team physician, he could play in 12 to 15 months, if not sooner.
Guy, who also spoke at the news conference, said Lattimore is on track with his recovery, and needs no further surgery. Guy confirmed Lattimore damaged three of his four knee ligaments, but says only his anterior cruciate ligament had to be reconstructed. Lattimore also has no blood vessel injuries or nerve damage, something which could have prevented a return to football.
Lattimore intends to go to the NFL combines and watch the drills. So far, he has not hired an agent.
Still, even though he's focused on football, he said he'll return to USC to finish his degree.
"I will be a Gamecock forever," he said. "God bless the Gamecock Nation."