Posted: Sunday October 28, 2012 10:26PM ; Updated: Monday October 29, 2012 2:11PM
Stewart Mandel

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Marcus Lattimore injury stirs emotion far and wide

South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore
South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore was carted off the field after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter against Tennessee.
The State/McClatchy-Tribune/Getty Images

It was a scene both horrifying and heartwarming, unwanted but inspiring. As trainers readied South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore for a lift onto the cart following a gruesome and devastating right knee injury Saturday against Tennessee, the Gamecocks' entire team left its sideline to surround him in encouragement. Numerous members from the Vols' sideline soon joined them. By day's end, athletes from Tim Tebow to Abby Wambach to Robert Griffin III had tweeted well wishes for Lattimore.

It's a testament to the level of respect both in the SEC and around the nation for Lattimore, an obvious first-round talent and a player who already came back from an ACL injury in his left knee last season. It's also a telling sign of just how horrifying an image it was (I'm choosing not to include a video clip here), one that evoked memories of Willis McGahee in the 2002 BCS title game or Tim Krumrie in Super Bowl XXIII.

Lattimore left the game to a standing ovation, his head buried beneath a towel. TV cameras briefly caught a gut-wrenching image of his family watching the scene. ESPN's sideline reporter at the game, Jenn Brown, was standing on the stadium concourse when Lattimore's mother met up with him. "I heard loud sobs. He was just hugging his mom and they were rocking back and forth for the five, six minutes I was standing there," Brown, who called it the toughest moment she's ever covered, told me Sunday. "I was crying."

In a statement Sunday, South Carolina team doctor Jeffrey Guy said that Lattimore suffered "significant impact to the front of his right knee" and that "the ensuing hyperextension of the knee resulted in injury to several ligaments." Earlier in the day, coach Steve Spurrier indicated that Lattimore would miss not only the rest of this season, but possibly 2013 as well while rehabilitating.

But Spurrier was also adamant in diffusing speculation that Lattimore's football career is over, saying other players have previously come back from similar injuries. "We're optimistic his football days are ahead of him," said Spurrier. Prior to Saturday, it was all but a certainty Lattimore would turn pro this spring. While he's certainly not obligated to conduct his rehabilitation in Columbia, it seems unlikely an NFL team would draft and invest in him knowing he may miss most or all of the 2013 season.

If he does remain a Gamecock, Lattimore will have no shortage of support. Brown said numerous school officials came up to her afterward to say things like "Marcus is one of the finest young men you'll ever meet." South Carolina President Harris Pastides announced that the school will hold a rally on campus Monday -- which happens to be Lattimore's 21st birthday -- where he, Spurrier and others will speak. The video will be streamed for Lattimore to watch from the hospital.

Here's wishing for a speedy recovery, Marcus, and a day in the not-too-distant future filled with smiles, not tears.

Braxton Miller: He jukes, he soars

Ohio State's quarterback combines a basketball crossover with an end-zone dive. It's sweet.

Marqise Lee: He catches, he flies

It's just one of his 16 catches Saturday, but it pretty nicely sums up how the USC receiver got to 345 yards.

Looking ahead

Mini-previews for Week 10's big games:

Alabama at LSU, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): It's become the SEC's equivalent of the high-stakes Florida State-Miami games of the '90s. Alabama has looked unflappable, but here's what it's going up against: Les Miles is 36-1 in Saturday night games at Death Valley. Maybe the grass is particularly tasty after sunset.

Oregon at USC, Saturday (7 p.m. ET): The Trojans are reeling right now, but remember this: They're the only Pac-12 team since the start of the 2010 season to beat the Ducks -- and that was at hostile Autzen Stadium last year. The Coliseum will be rocking, but Oregon won 53-32 in its last visit there.

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