An estimated 5,000 students gathered outside of McKissick Museum at 5 p.m. Monday to show their support and birthday wishes to sensational South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. The crowd heard from several notable speakers at the rally, including University President Harris Pastides, U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham, Head Coach Steve Spurrier, football team Chaplain Adrian Despres, football players Kenny Miles and Dylan Thompson, and Student Body President Kenny Tracy. The celebration–which Lattimore watched from his hospital bed via live video-feed–was riddled with chanting, hugging, praying, singing, and thunderous applause; as speakers encouraged the crowd to show their support in a multitude of ways.
Among the more significant events of the rally were the announcements by Spurrier and Pastides that both South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin–neither of whom were in attendance–had proclaimed that October 29th be known as “Marcus Lattimore Day” throughout the state of South Carolina and the city of Columbia.
One by one, the speakers took the stage just below the steps of McKissick Museum, and one by one, they gave unique accounts of their experiences regarding Lattimore and all that he has contributed to the University. Lindsay Graham spoke of Lattimore’s tremendous influence on his fellow students and teammates, and Adrian Despres quoted Lattimore’s personal message to everyone that “God never makes mistakes.”
Spurrier emphasized that today’s rally was not a memorial service, but rather a service for his birthday and in “appreciation of everything he’s done and will continue to do for the University of South Carolina.” The Head Ball Coach went on to call Lattimore the most popular football player who has ever played at South Carolina, and he announced to the crowd that Lattimore told him “I’ll be back.”
Teammate and fellow running back Kenny Miles praised Lattimore’s work ethic and leadership, claiming that he had “never met somebody greater than [Lattimore],” and Dylan Thompson said that during his visit with Lattimore earlier this morning, Marcus said that God is good and has a perfect plan for him.
After the Chaplain and a group of football players led the crowd in a singing of Happy Birthday, Student Body President Kenny Tracy and members of Student Government led the crowd in a singing of “We Hail Thee Carolina,” followed by the “USC” and “Game-cocks” chants.
Before the rally’s end, more than 20 large posters provided by Student Government were filled with birthday and speedy recovery wishes from students who stopped by at the tables surrounding the rally. These will be delivered to Lattimore along with a multitude of homemade cards that students brought to the rally.
“It’s probably for me one of the most important days of my presidency,” Pastides said afterwards about the rally. “We talk about the Carolina spirit a lot and we feel it in many different ways, but today it just overflowed. The number of people that came, their passion and respect for a fallen hero, I really don’t think this was about Marcus’ football accomplishments. It’s that he’s touched us in so many ways, and so when a campus can react in 24 hours and come out and salute a fallen hero like this, I have a renewed faith in my university.”