As you've probably read by now, Marcus Lattimore will forego his remaining eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft. For this fan, Lattimore's declaration is a happy but bittersweet moment.
It's happy because reports indicate that Lattimore's recovery is going better than many of us anticipated after watching the gruesome injury just a handful of weeks ago. One can assume that, behind the scenes, Lattimore has received indications that if he continues to recover at a good clip, he's not going to need to come back to college ball to prove that he can still perform at a high enough level to warrant being taken relatively early in the draft. This is precisely what Lattimore deserves, and I'm glad he doesn't feel the need to come back. The kid needs to get paid, and it would kill me to see him come back and risk getting hurt yet again before he can cash in on his talent and hard work. I'm honestly not sure I could watch him run the ball again.
It's bittersweet, though, because I find myself wondering what might have been. You think back to Lattimore's one (almost) full season, all the great performances. The breakout game against Georgia. His central role in the program-defining win over Alabama. And finally, the simply amazing effort he put in against Florida, when he rushed for 200+ yards en route to leading the Gamecocks to their first SEC East Title. He was arguably the best running back in college football as a true freshman, and he deserved better than what happened to him after that promising start. After being reasonably compared to players like Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson, he should have had the opportunity to take home All-American honors and to go to New York in hopes of hearing his name called as the winner of the Heisman Trophy. He should have enjoyed beating Clemson on our home turf. He should've been able to declare for the NFL Draft knowing that he would get the first-round draw he deserves. The kid just deserves a lot better, in general, than the deck that's been handed to him.
Of course, maybe Lattimore's lot in life is that he gets to show us how to beat the odds after being dealt that bad hand. He's done it before, and now he is forced to do it yet again. You can bet, though, that whatever team drafts him will get a guy who's up to the task. That team will also draw a lot of fans from the ranks of Gamecock Nation, which will eagerly follow Marcus Lattimore through his foray in to pro football.