Lattimore's message to fans: "Tell them I'll be back"

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Hundreds of Gamecock fans stood on the Horseshoe on Monday to wish Marcus Lattimore a Happy Birthday in the wake of his knee injury.

Speakers included student body president Kenny Tracy, university president Harris Pastides, Steve Spurrier, members of the Gamecock football team and others.

Spurrier took the stage and talked about Lattimore's impact on his life and the team.

"I've been fortunate as a head coach for 23 years in college, I've coached some really outstanding guys -- just super guys who do everything you ask on and off the field -- and Marcus is right up there at the top. I sort of put he and Danny Wuerffel as the two guys I don't know if they ever do anything wrong or not. Somewhere, they've got to do wrong, but I've never seen these guys do anything but what's right, and Marcus is such an inspiration to all of us," said Spurrier.

Spurrier also had plenty to say about Lattimore's future with the team.

"We're going to get Marcus for four or five years instead of three," said Spurrier.

But perhaps the biggest statement of all comes from a discussion the coach had with Lattimore and a message the running back had for the crowd.

"Tell them I'll be back," said Spurrier.

Lattimore was forced out of the Tennessee game on Saturday after a very serious knee injury.

Andrea Christiansen and Vaughan Evans were there. They were among the thousands who watched through tears as players from both sides spilled on to the field and took a knee for a player who'd already sacrificed one of his own.

"He always refers to the team as we never me," said Evans. "He's very humble. I've always admired that about him."

At Garnet and Black Traditions, Christiansen and Evans took time to sign a get well card. Phillip Graham works there.

"Once they're filled up we'll give them to Mrs. Spurrier and she'll deliver them to Marcus and his family just to let him know the community cares about him," said Graham.

Graham says #21 jerseys have been hot items among fans who want to wear their support for a running back who carries much more than just a football.

"They don't recognize this kid as just a football player, they see him as a very humble person who does the right thing because it's the right thing to do, and does all the right things on and off the field. You just don't see that nowadays," said Graham.

The running back's injury has also clearly affected the governor's office as Gov. Nikki Haley declared Oct. 29 to be "Marcus Lattimore Day".

"Michael and I ask every South Carolinian to join our family as we lift up in prayer Marcus Lattimore and his mother Yolanda Smith during this challenging time," said Haley in a statement. "He has been more than just a Carolina football player – he is a great role model for our state."

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.