By Darryl Slater
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Marcus Lattimore hadn't walked onto the field at South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium since Oct. 27, when he suffered a gruesome injury to multiple ligaments in his right knee in a game against Tennessee.
Five months later, the running back who spent three seasons helping to elevate the Gamecocks' program returned to their home field Wednesday to participate in South Carolina's pro day. Although he isn't ready yet to take part in on-field drills such as the 40-yard dash, he did some indoor exercises for NFL scouts to demonstrate the progress of his knee.
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He quickly stepped in and out of the squares on a rope ladder. He jumped from a standing position onto an 18-inch box and did the same with a 24-inch box. He did step-up exercises onto a box. He did lunges, reverse lunges and balanced on one leg and lowered himself as far as he could.
What it means for his NFL Draft status remains to be seen. The draft's third and final day is a month from Wednesday. The fourth through seventh rounds are picked on that day, and Lattimore is currently rated as a fourth- to fifth-round prospect by NFLDraftScout.com and the No. 11 running back available in this class.
Injuries have derailed a prospect once considered a potential first-rounder, but Lattimore maintained his usual upbeat attitude about what he accomplished at his pro day.
"I could be out there doing something (in on-field drills), but it's not smart to be doing that at this time," he said. "I wanted to be out there bad, just get out there and run some routes.
"(But scouts) were able to see me use my feet, use my knee and see that my knee is fine. It felt great, but I know I've got a lot of work to do and I need at least three or four more months before I put on some pads. I feel like my step-ups showed a lot, when I stepped up onto the box with my right leg. Just showing how stable it is, showing that it's still good and it's progressing."
Lattimore said he has been sprinting recently, though not at full speed, and that he still hopes to play in the first half of next season. He will not have a personal pro day, but will go to Indianapolis next Friday and Saturday for a follow-up examination by NFL doctors. They first examined him at last month's combine in Indianapolis.
"Everything has been progressing perfect," he said. "I know I'll be back playing football, no doubt. One team is going to believe in me. I know that."