For those of you hoping to read a rapid reaction to South Carolina’s narrow victory over the Volunteers of Tennessee, I’m sorry to tell you I just didn’t have the heart to write about what, in the grand scheme of life, is a silly game. I do, however, hope you will bear with me as I attempt to capture the emotions I, along with every member of Gamecock Nation, have been feeling.
Dear Marcus Lattimore,
You don’t know me, but I have been watching Gamecock football since I was only 4 years old. I have watched great players come and go. I have watched every week with the same awe I felt at my first home game in 1994. Even in college, seeing the football players around campus caused that boyhood excitement to well up inside of me. These players were celebrities to me.
Marcus, you have become so much more than that to everyone not only just in Columbia but around the nation. You have become a legend and a hero. Your drive and determination on the football field could have been enough to win the hearts of all Gamecock faithful, but what separates you from so many other athletes is who you are off of the field. I’m sure you are told this often, but I have never seen someone with so much God-given talent also have the humility that you show every day.
Knowing who you are now, I wish I could go back and watch you shun the Auburn hat for the garnet and black. I wish I could go back and see your coming out party against Georgia later that same year. I wish I could see you thrash Florida in the Swamp. I wish I could see you break our all time TD record. I wish I could see all these things and so many others for the first time again, but with the emotions I have now. What I did see was two football teams coming together in an extremely moving moment. I saw a stadium cheer as loud as they would for a big score. I saw people around the nation, be they athletes, analysts, or average joes, take to the airwaves in a unified cause I have not seen happen for many things. This was all in support of you.
For the first time ever in my life, I saw a football player injured on the field and didn’t just see an unfortunate accident and a missing piece of the puzzle. As I said, you don’t know me, but I saw my brother in pain. I can’t speak for every Gamecock, but the ones I have spoken to have described very similar experiences. Some in tears, some in prayer, some in complete shock.
I tell you this to show you how much you have inspired not just me or my friends or my fellow fan, but the entire country. To me, a hero is someone that, despite adversity, demonstrates to the world his best qualities. Forgive the silly comparison, but Batman in his latest film is my quintessential hero. Despite being beaten and broken, he fought through all pain and suffering and rose. This insatiable drive is what made Batman my hero when I was growing up. Marcus, you are my hero now. Keep strong in your faith and in who you are.
Marcus, this off-season you rose for us. I’m sure I speak for every Gamecock, be it coach, player, or fan, that this season, we rise for you.
Forever to thee,
Nick Estes and every Gamecock
Photo Credits: GamecockCentral.com, FITSNews
Update: Come support Lattimore and the whole team at a rally on the horseshoe tomorrow! (even better, it’s his birthday).