If South Carolina football fans didnt realize which player was being celebrated Saturday, the band spelled it out for them. At halftime, the band members strutted into a formation that clearly said it all:
WE (HEART) 21.
Marcus Lattimore wasnt in attendance for the game against Arkansas, but his spirit was there. Although he will not carry the football the rest of the season, he will maintain a permanent presence at Williams-Brice Stadium.
USC held a short video ceremony in the first quarter honoring the junior tailback, whose season ended prematurely with a knee injury for the second consecutive year. Ramp signage was put up at the stadium recognizing his school-record 38 rushing touchdowns.
Lattimore appeared on the video board and thanked fans.
Hey, Gamecock country, I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you so much for all the notes, all the cards, all the e-mails that I got, he said. I appreciate all your support. I am feeling fine, and I am working to get back on the football field again. To my teammates, one message: Beat Arkansas. Go Cocks.
He could not attend the game because team medical officials agreed that he was not up to it after recent surgery. But his teammates followed through on his request that they knock off the Razorbacks.
Quarterback Connor Shaw was impressed by the tribute.
That was pretty awesome. I thought the crowd gave a great standing ovation for Marcus, Shaw said. Its different with him not on the field physically and emotionally, but our guys were really amped up for this one. A lot of people had 21 written on them. D.J. (Swearinger) had a game ball afterward and said it was for 21. I think our guys came out and played for him.
Lattimore, the 6-foot, 212-pounder from Duncan, suffered the injury to his right knee in the second quarter of USCs 38-35 win against Tennessee two weeks ago. Before the injury occurred, he gained 65 yards on 11 carries, including a 28-yard touchdown run, to up his team-leading total to 662 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The 2010 national freshman of the year, Lattimore was coming back from a season-ending left knee injury in the seventh game last year. For his career, he has carried the ball 555 times (fourth in school history) for 2,677 yards (sixth in school history) with 41 total touchdowns, including 38 rushing touchdowns, both school records.