A familiar face has returned to South Carolina. Former Gamecock football star Marcus Lattimore was named the Director of Player Development - Life Skills and the Beyond Football program. The news brought a wave of excitement throughout the program and university.
“This is a home run for us,” head football coach Will Muschamp said in Friday's press conference.
The direction that the South Carolina football program is headed will be influenced by Lattimore, whose experiences and connection to USC give both an advantage.
“I believe in timing. You know, God has put me in the perfect position,” Lattimore said. “I'm just so blessed to be here now. There's so many things that hat to happen, but we’ve been able to work it out and everything."
Even though Lattimore bid a tough goodbye to his former team at Heathwood Hall, he told his players to not look at this as a setback, but an opportunity. Lattimore said the impact that each player in his life influenced his growth as a person and a leader.
"With my foundation, some of the logistics and planning of things to help athletes, I’ve been doing it for a while," Lattimore said. "With the beyond football program there is going to be ... components trying to make sure every guy leaves this program and they have self-awareness, they know who they are as a human being and they find their identity and they will know the importance of giving back.”
One of the major goals that Lattimore will emphasize with each player is professional development. He is committed to help guide them to "meaningful employment" after graduation.
Muschamp looks forward to adding Lattimore’s knowledge, leadership abilities and ability to teach players that football goes "a lot further than a Saturday afternoon."
“There isn't a better example to talk to our players and mentor our players moving forward,” Muschamp said.
Not only is Muschamp ready to see what Lattimore will bring to the program, but so is athletic director Ray Tanner.
“Marcus is a real life example,” Tanner said. “He's a person that connects and when he's around around student athletes and when he’s around our football players, my opinion it’s just going to be very, very special.”
The current Gamecocks and future players will have Lattimore to relate to and connect with on a day-to-day basis.
“I just really thought about what I would have wanted as a player and what those guys need because it is hard being a collegiate football athlete," Lattimore said. "So to be able to maximize their time, being able to build their network while they are here, be able to reach out to alumni that could possibly mentor in the field that they want to go into one day, those things are important.”
To have someone who has been rejected by the NFL and been a former Gamecock come back and talk through the reality of each South Carolina football player is going to be essential for the seasons to come at South Carolina.
Tapping into the potential of the players as they stand in front of thousands of Gamecocks fans each Saturday and pour blood and sweat onto the field throughout the week is something Lattimore hopes to reach.
“This whole organization from top to bottom, the coaches, the staff, everybody that is involved in this organization is first class,” Lattimore said. "Right now, I’m trying to learn as much as possible, better myself, the traits, the humility, all of those things that come with a great organization, it’s exemplified here and I am just so happy to be apart of it.”