Lattimore’s hometown feels its ‘shining light’s’ pain

jkendall@thestate.comNovember 4, 2012 

— On Thursday, it seemed hard to imagine silence in Martin’s Haircuts. A Los Angeles Lakers game was on both flat-screen TVs. Every barber had a customer in the seat, and a handful of conversations intermingled.

There were more people in the place last Saturday around 1 p.m., but no one was saying a word. South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, Duncan’s most famous son, had just suffered a devastating knee injury during a nationally televised game.

“We were in here watching the game when it happened. It got real quiet,” said Robert Martin, the 42-year-old owner of Martin’s. “Everybody stopped. We were all just like…”

Martin mimics the deflated pose that most of the fans in Williams-Brice Stadium had as they watched Lattimore wheeled off the field last week.

“Everybody knows him,” said 24-year-old barber Terry Johnson. “Everybody keeps track of Marcus. He’s a shining light in Duncan.”

Johnson graduated from Lattimore’s alma mater, Byrnes High, in 2006 and his younger siblings went to school with Lattimore. They prayed for Lattimore at Johnson’s church, New Trinity Baptist, last Sunday.

They prayed for Lattimore at most of the churches here this week. Steve Durham, 58, is a South Carolina graduate and the pastor at Friendship Baptist. Lattimore was on everyone’s minds there during Wednesday’s service, Durham said as he ate Thursday at Sims BBQ.

“He’s got a great reputation even outside of football,” Durham said. “He’s very highly thought of.”

Lattimore no longer makes Duncan home, his brother Octavius Love said. Lattimore has moved permanently to Columbia, where he waited this week for the first surgery in what will be a long rehabilitation that offers no guarantees that he will return to the football field, Love said.

But these people still claim him and still love him.

“There has been a lot of concern, more for Marcus than him playing football,” Love, 27, said. “They are more worried with his well-being than him playing on the field.”

Love gets five to 10 questions a day in person about his brother, and that number would double if you factored in all the electronic queries, he said.

Mike Srock, the defensive line coach and head strength coach at Byrnes, gets just as many or more.

“You can’t go anywhere (without getting a question) because they all know he’s a Byrnes boy,” Srock said. “That was big at church, everybody was praying for him, going to the store people are asking, go to a restaurant people are asking, ‘How’s Marcus? Have you heard from Marcus?’ That’s the impact he has around here.”

Srock’s main job with the Rebels is to coax high school football players to put in the work necessary in the school’s spotlight-free weight room to help Byrnes retain its premier position in the Upstate football pecking order. The only coaching he ever had to do with Lattimore was to kick him out of the weight room for fear of overwork, which Srock did multiple times during Lattimore’s senior season.

“I know him, and if it’s humanly possible, he’ll be back. I’m 100 percent positive,” Srock said. “I know that. I know him. He will do whatever it takes plus to get back.”

Rebels head coach Chris Miller had the same experience with Lattimore on and off the field.

“I could ask him to do anything, go anywhere. I could say, ‘Let’s go over and see this little kid, he’s been sick and you’re his hero.’ “ ‘OK, when?’ ” Miller said. “It was always, ‘What time? Where do you want me to be?’ ”

Miller didn’t watch the Tennessee game live, but he knew almost immediately when something went wrong.

“My phone just blew up,” he said. “The biggest thing that I was trying to figure out was, Why? Why Marcus? Why, to a guy who has done everything right, probably one of the best kids I have ever been around, always trying to do the right things.”

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