Marcus Lattimore's behavior shouldn't be considered fearsome. It should be assessed as animalistic.
As a freshman at South Carolina last season, the running back bullied his way to 1,197 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
Off the field, he's equally as impressive by absolutely owning the weight room.
Strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald was amazed by the shape Lattimore arrived in a year ago and is still wowed by his efforts in the gym.
“He’s a total animal in the weight room,” Fitzgerald said. “He was our best worker out of all of our offensive skill players.”
Lattimore arrived as a chiseled, well-conditioned freak of a kid in 2010. Coming from Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., Lattimore was able to get superb football and weight-training instruction.
Fitzgerald marveled at his form during lifts and his technique during runs. As Fitzgerald puts it, Lattimore was “as equipped and as technically sound as any freshman I’ve ever trained.”
That’s nice, but it wasn’t enough for Lattimore. The gains in the gym weren’t ample when he lifted with the running backs and his speed wasn’t cutting it when sprinting with his backfield brethren.
Instead of adapting, Lattimore evolved. He took on new challenges by lifting with the bigger, stronger fullbacks and running with the speedier and more nimble wide receivers.
“He’s always looking to do more,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s that kind of guy.
“He’s done a hell of a job. He’s much improved.”
Lattimore exited last season weighing around 217 pounds, Fitzgerald said, but with his new workout partners he bulked up to 231 this spring, while lowering his 40 time to 4.5 seconds.
Lattimore also improved his lifting results. His back squat is up to 482 pounds from 425, his 275-pound power-clean has morphed into 315 pounds and his bench-press is above 300 for the first time in his life.
Not to mention, he now has a 35-inch vertical jump and his broad jump is just less than 10 feet.
Outside of his physical gains, Lattimore garnered more respect from his coaches and teammates as he excelled in the offseason workout events.
Split into teams by position, Lattimore was elected captain of the Jets crew. He kept his leadership role by dominating in drills and lifts, but also for his ability to take hold of his group. He became a taxi service to workouts for his teammates and even showed up early to run stadium steps with a teammate who failed to make it to his designated workout.
That dedication earned him the Jet Award as the top performer on his team.
The decision to pack on the pounds was all Lattimore’s idea. He went to Fitzgerald wanting to be more durable in 2011. He wanted to deliver more punishment than he received.
Originally, Fitzgerald just wanted him to add 10 pounds, but as he saw that Lattimore’s athleticism wasn’t suffering from the weight gain, he allowed him four extra pounds.
His plan worked.
So as some coaches prepare for the worst when finally getting their hands back on their athletes after spring, Fitzgerald is far from worried about Lattimore.
To Fitzgerald, Lattimore’s work ethic doesn’t just stem from his incredible physical attributes; it comes from his own internal desire to continuously surpass his previous efforts.
“Obviously, he’s got great genetics and you need great genetics to do what he’s done,” Fitzgerald said. “But what makes him a riser is the fact that the character and the attitude are off the charts.”