Lattimore Remains Humble; Ponder Practices

South Carolina freshman running back Marcus Lattimore has garnered national attention since his junior year in high school. Three years later, the accolades continue to roll in for the talented freshman running back. Despite the all the local and national media attention, Lattimore remains the same humble kid he was in high schoool

Marcus Lattimore is used to high praise. It will never affect him. Lattimore knows the instant he becomes complacent he will stop becoming an effective runner.

"Never," Lattimore said recent. "It's going to stay that way - you just have to stay hungry. I know the things I have to work on - I know what I've got to get better at."

Lattimore led the Byrnes Rebels to back-to-back South Carolina 4A State Championships in his sophomore and junior seasons in high school. As a sophomore, Lattimore rushed for 1,836 yards on 284 carries and in his junior season rushed for 2,303 yards on 305 carries and 30 touchdowns. That was enough to earn him his first national recognition when he was named 2008 ESPN Rise High School Junior of the Year.

Despite falling short of the State Championship in his senior season - falling to Dorman, 28-17, in the State Championship game - Lattimore continued to garner national and local awards. Lattimore was named 2009 South Carolina Mr. Football and earned a spot on both the USA Today and Parade Magazine High School All-American team. Lattimore rushed for 1,898 yards and 31 touchdowns on 260 carries in his final year in high school. For his career, Lattimore finished with 6,375 yards and 104 touchdowns.

It didn't take Lattimore long to make his presence felt in college. In just his second game - and first SEC game - Lattimore ran all over Georgia, breaking numerous tackles on his way to a 182 yard performance with two touchdowns.

Lattimore also played a huge role in the two biggest wins of the season. Against #1 Alabama, Lattimore out shined reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and running mate Trent Richardson by scoring twice and rushing for 93 yards in the historic win over the Tide.

Lattimore saved his best performance for one of the most important wins in program history. The Gamecocks were finally able to get over the hump and win the SEC East championship, beating Florida 36-14 in the Swamp. In that game, Lattimore rushed for a career high 212 yards on a career high 40 carries and three touchdowns in the victory that sent the Gamecocks to Atlanta for the first time ever. Of course no one needs a reminder of what happened in the Georgia Dome three weeks ago.

"We didn't play good last time," Lattimore said. "It was a different surface - we know what it's like now and we'll be ready."

The Gamecocks will be making the return trip to the Georgia Dome Friday night for a New Year's Eve showdown with the Florida State Seminoles in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl. 18 Gamecock players from the state of Florida will get a chance to knock off the second state school this season, including quarterback Stephen Garcia who grew up a Seminole fan. While Lattimore didn't grow up in Florida, he has a lot of familiarity with the Florida State tradition.

"That was my brother's favorite team growing up and I watched them all the time - Peter Warrick, Chris Weinke - the offense was high powered," Lattimore said. "I just remember all the big name players they had. It was fun watching them - a lot of tradition."

The honors have continued to roll in for Lattimore. Lattimore was named the Freshman of the Year, Sporting News Freshman of the Year, CFN Freshman of the Year, AP SEC Freshman of the Year, Coach's SEC Freshman of the Year, AP All-SEC first team, Coach's All-SEC first team, Freshman All-SEC team, CFN Freshman All-American team, second team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, and Phil Steele's fourth-team All-America.

With Lattimore's work ethic and humble attitude, the accolades will continue to come. With a good performance against the Seminoles, he very well could be a preseason pick to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy. It couldn't happen to a finer young man.

Ponder Returns

For the first time in a month, Florida State senior quarterback Christian Ponder threw passes to Seminole receivers Sunday. The Seminoles arrived in Atlanta Saturday evening and practiced for the first time since Tuesday on Sunday. Due to the inclement weather in Atlanta, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and Atlanta Falcons allowed the Seminoles to practice inside the Georgia Dome.

"He took all the reps - never broke from the reps," Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I still rotated EJ (Manuel) some with the (starters), but I was very pleased. He threw the ball really well."

Ponder suffered an(other) injury to his throwing shoulder in the Seminoles' 31-7 shellacking of Florida in Tallahassee and underwent surgery just 16 days ago. Though still labeled as questionable for the game, Fisher is confident that Ponder will be cleared to play by the medical staff. That means if Ponder feels like he can go, he will likely be the starter when the Gamecocks and Seminoles collide.

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