GREENVILLE — Marcus Lattimore said he would not change a thing.
If Id have stayed healthy, Id have been a first-round pick, guaranteed millions. I wouldnt change one thing that happened in college, Lattimore told a principally school-aged audience Monday evening at Redemption World Outreach. It made me a better man, a better person and it got me closer to Jesus Christ, which is all that matters.
With the next turn in his journey on the horizon, the former University of South Carolina running back said he was at peace as the NFL Draft approaches.
Ive done all I can, he said before an address to inspire as part of the Coaches 4 Character series. I knew coming out of school that the plan was to do something for the scouts. Now, just wait and see what happens.
Shadowed by a documentary film crew, Lattimore confidently strolled on stage to share the story of a promising football career short-circuited by severe knee injuries in successive seasons.
After recovering from a left knee injury sustained during his sophomore year at Carolina, Lattimore dislocated his right knee and tore three ligaments against Tennessee last October.
I knew I was done with football. I lost my faith, he said. Words from a teammate inspired him: God does not make mistakes.
Lattimore went back to work with a vengeance at Athletes Performance in Gulf Breeze, Fla., working with people who pumped life into the careers of many prominent players.
Through it all, Lattimore said he never strayed from his faith.
Faith has been a big part of my life, he said. I pray every night and I know that God doesnt make mistakes, so thats what keeps me smiling every day.
Opportunities such as the one Monday, sharing his story and hoping he can serve as an inspiration, are important to him.
Kids want to be like me. That makes me want to set a good example for them. Its very important for me to share my faith, he said.
If I never got a chance to play football again, I left my mark. Im going to continue even after football is over with, continue to be myself, continue to inspire.
Lattimore works daily on rehabilitating the knee, trying to accelerate the clock. Doctors told him he would not walk for nine months or run for two years. It has been six months.
Insisting he would not monitor the NFL Draft, Lattimore said he has no idea which teams might be willing to roll the dice, when to anticipate a call, if at all, though he said one scout told him he might be drafted on character alone.
I dont have a clue. A lot of teams like me later, a lot of teams like me early, so I dont have a clue, he said. I aint watching it. Im just going to wait on the phone to ring.
If the phone dont ring, Ill call a team, tell them. Lets get to work.
If he needs another year to fully recover, it would not trouble him.
I definitely think thats OK. Its about longevity in the NFL, and I want to play for a long time, he said. But if Im ready to play, suit me up.