University of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore will enter the 2013 NFL draft, ESPN’s Joe Schad is reporting. Sources close to the star tailback have confirmed this decision to FITS.

“110 percent,” one of them told us.

Lattimore – USC’s career scoring leader – suffered a downright gruesome injury to his right knee two months ago in a game against the Tennessee Volunteers.  Last month he underwent a successful surgical procedure to repair several damaged ligaments in his knee.  In 2011, Lattimore suffered a season-ending injury to his left knee that also required surgery.

Because both of Lattimore’s injuries occurred mid-season, the 6-foot-1, 218-pound Duncan, S.C. native never used a medical redshirt year at USC – prompting speculation that he might sit out the 2013 season and return to the Gamecocks in 2014.

Apparently that’s not going to happen, though, as the 21-year-old is betting that a professional team will take a late round flier on him in 2013 rather than risk another injury at the college level in an effort to improve his draft position.  Lattimore’s decision also means he will get to work on his rehabilitation – which is said to be progressing nicely – with NFL doctors.

Lattimore’s 2012 injury was so severe that many who saw it believed that his football career had ended.  As he was being tackled from behind by Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers, Lattimore has hit low by the helmet of Volunteers’ defensive back Eric Gordon – causing his right knee to dislocate and contort violently.

Amazingly, less than two months later Lattimore is already walking without crutches.

According to Schad, Lattimore “has a goal of jogging and catching passes at the end of March for NFL executives and plans to visit with them at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.”

In 28 games at USC, Lattimore rushed for 2,677 yards and scored a school-record 41 touchdowns. He also racked up 767 receiving yards.

If he can return from this knee injury the way he returned from last year’s injury, Lattimore should be able to compete for a starting tailback position in the NFL by the time 2014 rolls around.

As much as we hate to see him leave USC, Lattimore’s decision is the right one for him and his family – and we wish him all the best as his recovery progresses. Not only is he one of the greatest athletes in the history of the USC program, he’s been a class act on and off the field – the sort of humble “walk the walk” player that young athletes everywhere should strive to emulate.