Pads to the turf surrounded by trainers, Marcus Lattimore put his hands over his face at the 27-yard line Saturday afternoon as South Carolina and Tennessee players huddled in prayer.
Williams-Brice Stadium got deathly quiet in the second quarter as the worst fears of 80,250 fans were realized. Soon, the rest of the college football world would endure the gruesome replay and hurry away to social media.
South Carolina’s most widely-recognizable star, a transcendent talent who led the program to its first SEC East title in 2010, suffered another unfortunate season-ending knee injury, this one even more catastrophic than the first.
Lattimore took a handoff and went around tackle where he was met by a pair of Tennessee defenders, what appeared to be a Volunteer helmet obliterating his right knee. Lattimore collapsed in agony, the lower half of his leg horrifically rolling over his body. In 2011, Lattimore tore ligaments in his left knee causing him to miss South Carolina’s final six games.
Replay of the hit was not shown on the video board but several fans began watching the collision on their smartphones. Nightmare footage. Nothing I’ll ever watch again.
The effect of Lattimore’s injury is widespread. Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and LSU’s Les Miles expressed their concern on Twitter as well as Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, several current NFL Gamecocks and other notable athletes. University officials have not released the extent of the injury. That is expected sometime Sunday. Collectively a dedicated fanbase’s favorite player, seeing him go down again after nearly a year of rehabilitation following the first injury was depressing, unfair even.
Known for his work ethic and charisma, it’s tough to put Lattimore’s impact on the university into words, but head coach Steve Spurrier had this to say shortly after the game.
“As a person, there is none better that I’ve ever met,” the Head Ball Coach said. “He’s going to do wonderful things. I don’t know what field of life.”
If Lattimore has played his last down of college football, the game will have lost a true ambassador for the sport.