Although he was one of the top college football players during his three seasons as a South Carolina Gamecock, current San Francisco 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore found himself on the shelf in his last two seasons in Columbia, suffering two knee injuries.
While his stock in last year's NFL draft fell—being selected in the fourth round by the Niners in 2013—Lattimore took the year off to get healthy and prove himself to be the runner he was before the injuries.
Representing EAS Sports Nutrition at the 2014 Arnold Sports Festival last weekend, I got to sit down with Lattimore to talk about his recovery and next season, while also getting to see if he thinks he can outrun former Gamecocks teammate Jadeveon Clowney in the 40.
Bleacher Report: First off, how's the knee doing?
Marcus Lattimore: Oh, it feels great. It's been about 15 months, and I've been down in Greenville, S.C., training, so I'll be there until I have to go back to San Francisco at the end of April. My speed feels good, rarely have any soreness and I'm just getting better, man. Just working on every little thing to get myself ready for the upcoming season.
B/R: Can you talk about some of the drills you've been doing to help your rehab?
ML: A lot of reaction drills. You lose that muscle memory when you have an injury like I had, so it takes a lot of repetition to get that agility back. The biggest thing at the running back position is making sure you can move from side to side, so just making sure my ankles and knees are stable in order to make those cuts.
B/R: How have EAS products helped you regain your strength and fitness?
ML: They have helped me build muscle in my arms and legs, and when you use it, you just feel so much more energized. You don't get as tired as quickly as you would without it. During my workouts, I'm going full speed, so using the product has helped with that. Getting in the recovery shakes after my workouts have really paid dividends for me.
B/R: As a high school senior back in 2010, you were one of the top-rated players in the country. Has some of that same drive helped you in your recovery?
ML: Oh yeah, without a doubt. I always want to strive to be the best, and I'm working hard, making sure I do every rep because I want to be the best. I want to gain yards, I want to score touchdowns and ultimately want to win the Super Bowl. I'll do whatever it takes, because I love this game and I'm going to play it as long as I can.
B/R: How big of a chip do you have on your shoulder to prove that you are the same player as before the injury?
ML: That comes with confidence. You know you're back when you don't think about the things that you used to think about (after the injury while training). When you make that cut and not worry. And I feel like I'm almost at that stage. I'm just really excited about it, man. You know, there's no pressure on me. So I'm just going to go out there and have fun, because all I can do is give it my all.
B/R: How are you approaching the 2014 NFL season—especially after the success the 49ers had in 2013? Any specific goals?
ML: We have a great team. Great defense and offense, and one of the best running backs to ever play the game (Frank Gore). He's taught me how to practice and just the little things to do. Of course, I want to go out there and compete, and score some touchdowns. I don't really have a number for yards or anything, but I want to just help my team any way I can. That can be running the ball, in pass protection or on special teams. I just want to get out there and run around and have some fun.
B/R: You haven't played in a game against the Seattle Seahawks, but do you think it's the best rivalry in the NFL right now from what you've seen?
ML: Oh yeah. I look at some of the big college rivalries, and the one with the Seahawks is almost the same because of the passion of the fans. You go to Seattle, and it's going to be the loudest game. You come to San Francisco, and it's going to be the loudest game. You know, it's fun. Those are the games you live for.
B/R: OK, let's do some rapid fire.
(College coach) Steve Spurrier's visor. Good or bad look?
ML: (laughing) Oh, man. Good.
One running back you model your game after?
ML: Matt Forte.
Your first NFL touchdown. Do you bust a move or act like you've been there before?
ML: (laughing) Act like I've been there before.
One celebrity you want to have dinner with?
ML: Man, that's tough...I'll say (rapper) Jay Z.
Could you beat former teammate Jadeveon Clowney in the 40-yard dash right now?
ML: Nope. I'm not even going to say yes to that.