MARCUS LATTIMORE wore a black jacket while performing on a stage. He didn't want to rip it off and toss it away.

He was looking out at the crowd in the arena. He was now a member of the University of South Carolina's Hall of Fame.

He gave the entire state permission to dream. Fans were allowed to believe they were royalty. They did. In the three years that Marcus Lattimore was a running back for the South Carolina Gamecocks, they faced 10 teams, all but one of them winning. Along the way, Lattimore inspired a group of South Carolina high school students to follow him to Columbia. Steve Spurrier says that everyone wanted to know who recruited Jadeveon Clowney. Marcus Lattimore was the largest.

The man on stage was more than just a Hall of Fame member. He was more than just a large man.

A teenager once said that Lattimore was a god. The young man was stone-faced and solemn while he was at the farmers market. Lattimore told him not to say that. "Never say that."

He was told to walk a bride down the aisle. A woman is dying in the Hospice. He had been asked why he would frequent Dollar General. After a chance encounter on DeBordieu Beach, he pulled a man out of a depression. He meant so much that Lattimore thought he had lost all meaning.

He says that people don't see him at a certain point.

Marcus Lattimore is said to be that man. The man used to be called Marcus Lattimore.

He stood before the crowd of people who loved him, the people who knew him, the people who thought they knew him, and the people who thought he ran with a football. He said what he had to say. Things that are important.

He told them that he was reminded of what happened when he walked outside his house. For the longest time, I was responsible. Why did I ask that? It shouldn't have been that way. It might have been a different way. I no longer ask why. It happened for me.

His football career was over due to a catastrophic injury. He thought most of the crowd had not embraced it. If it wasn't for a human knee, they would have been certain that he would have been.

He says that the October night he was coronated a Hall of Famer was the same night he felt like he was lost. They didn't know who I was and how to honor me. It is just honoring half a person.

People don't see you when you reach a point.

He left the South Carolina football program three months after standing on stage. He left the state after three months. He was who he was because of this place. To become who he wanted to be, he had to leave it.

Lattimore won two state championships with the James F. Byrnes Rebels in Duncan, South Carolina, making his decision to play football for the South Carolina Gamecocks a thrill for local fans. David Allio/Icon SMI

In Portland, Oregon, Lattimore runs sprints along the 20-yard line at the home of the Lewis and Clark Pioneers. The ground is wet The air is cold. As the temperature reached 63 degrees, Lattimore, Lewis & Clark's new running backs coach and director of player development, high-stepped his way across the football field. He doesn't move his feet. He doesn't have a hitch in his step.

There is no indication that Lattimore's high school field is one of the greatest collegiate running backs of the century.

He is as good as gone from the public consciousness in Portland if he were a god. A passerby talking to Lattimore in the hallway of the athletic complex.

Is your on the team? Is that not true? Is this where you played? Is that not true? Where are you playing?

South Carolina, sir.

Lattimore, one of the top high school prospects in the country, had been summoned to the University of South Carolina president's private residence for a meet and greet during a recruiting visit. One of the coaches who was with Lattimore thanked the president for the opportunity, he had never met him before.

As a junior and one of the most exciting college football players in the country, he broke his body and broke something fundamental in the state of South Carolina. ShawnElliott, the offensive line coach for South Carolina, says that he never felt deflation like that in his life. We were drained. It drained every fan that was in the stands that day. It took away our state.

The hometown kid who turned that home into a special place was Lattimore. "You stay home, you're from home, you're forever memorialized," Lattimore said in a recent interview. That's something to think about. It could be a cautionary fairy tale.

There is no place like Portland. It was all he wanted when he left.

I need to get away from it all. Lattimore ponders what it was like to be in South Carolina before he left. It was like a cage.

During Lattimore's time with the Gamecocks, they faced college football giants Clemson, Alabama, Florida and Georgia 10 times from 2010 to 2012. They won nine. Gerry Melendez/The State/Getty Images

Lattimore and his wife, Miranda, used to go to a wine bar in Columbia where the hostess would seat them at a small table in the back. Miranda heard a woman whisper as they sat across from a small party of six. They want you to hear them say "Do you think that's Marcus?"

I will ask him. I'm going to ask him.

The woman pulled out her phone and told Lattimore that her son took a picture with her at a football camp. She asked for a new photo after scrolling through her Facebook feed for a while. While another woman passed by, she stopped to investigate what was going on.

It's my god. Marcus, are you?

The man was with the woman.

One of the other couples thought if Lattimore was taking pictures they would join the queue. Fans and well-wishers formed a line outside the Lattimores' table before they ordered food.

It was not new. Lattimore believes he attended 50 children's birthday parties when he was a high school student. One year ago, a man named Johnny, who works at an auto dealer in nearby Lyman, called the coach of Lattimore's team to ask if Marcus could attend his son's party. The request was relayed despite it being a Friday. Johnny remembers Marcus showing up, ate, hung out, and played games with the kids. He was just the type of guy.

The kind of guy Lattimore was forced to be.

He said that they thought he was a golden boy. I was thought to be this guy who didn't make mistakes. Plants were brought to the professors. There are apples I know when to turn it on and when to turn it off. I kept a lot of things under wraps.

Early on in Lattimore's life, fame began to affect his life. You can get an introduction to high school football in upstate South Carolina by taking Exit 63 off I-85.

Duncan, welcome to your world.

The home of the James F.

The kind of town that closed on Fridays was theirs. The police and fire department arrived. Lattimore's mother says it's like church on Sunday mornings. What are you gonna do? You attend church.

The churchgoers had been waiting for their turn.

"Everyone in town knew this young man was going to come."

Suddenly and irrevocably, churchgoers in South Carolina pinned their wildest football dreams on Lattimore after he scored a touchdown on national television. He gave them a reward.

Lattimore chose South Carolina because it was the University of South Carolina. I thought I was from South Carolina.

Lattimore was a big deal in Columbia. He ran for over 1,200 yards in his first year. The SEC Freshman of the Year was him. His team won the SEC East title. He was graceful and brutal. Spurrier said he looked at every possible angle of the Lattimore touchdown run, but could not find the hole his running back glided through. Spurrier speculated that he may have levitated.

Lattimore was a big deal. A person who can do things that other people can't. He was mortal until he died.

Players surround Lattimore after a collision on Oct. 27, 2012, dislocated his right knee, tearing ligaments and damaging nerves. Gerry Melendez/The State/Getty Images

The play was cleanly executed.

Sitting in an auditorium in Lewis & Clark's athletics building, Lattimore rubs at his right leg, where a latticework of scars run the length and width of the knee cap. He stood up, assuming his position, because he still knows how that played out. It all came apart.

He was supposed to follow the guard into the hole, but he didn't see any daylight, so he took off to his left. The other defender's helmet hit his knee. Pieces of that helmet were still lodged in Lattimore's knee when he lay down.

The university president who hosted Lattimore in the past was on the sideline that day, and he still can't shake the silence of the stadium. He says that they feel compassion for injured football players. Marcus was the one who said it was. Marcus, I'm sorry.

It's hard to overstate just how certain Lattimore's future felt until that moment, how easy it was to see his football tale like a movie everyone had already seen and loved. He was the best running back in the country and he was in the first round. He was the next great defensive end in the league. The deification of Marcus Lattimore, already a god to the thousands of shell-shocked mourners in the stadium, to the millions more grieving at home across the state, began anew.

All comeback stories were overshadowed by the mass girded themselves for the comeback. The damage done to Lattimore's right knee was one of the most complex injuries he had ever operated on. Even now, a decade later, the renowned orthopedic surgeon says it's still true. At one point in the aftermath of Lattimore's injury, doctors told him that he might never walk again. He tore theACL in his other knee just a year ago.

But it was Marcus, right? There is a man named Marcus.

He would cause a sensation.

He's going to be fine." He's going to be the same old Marcus.

Lattimore said that the story would be a great one. I promise you that.

It was very close to happening. When Lattimore was drafted by the 49ers in the fourth round, he was already injured. He was not, and would never be, the same player as he spent his first season on the non- football injury list. He planted his foot on the ground to make the pain go away. He knew it was over when Joe Staley joined the coverage unit and they sprinted down the field.

He came back to South Carolina as a martyr. Lattimore would have died before he stopped playing football. He had his rightful place in the game. He became a football coach. He became the director of player development for the football team. He spoke to high school and college athletes, as well as people not associated with football, about his journey. He felt the weight of who he used to be as he traveled. South Carolina was still the same place that had raised Lattimore.

Every year the pressure continued to build. He says there are more pressures. When I retired, I felt like I had to be this person for everyone. I was focused on what people thought of me. People thought I was a hero.

I had to wear a cape all the time.

They wanted him to be who they wanted him to be.

Even though his faith was starting to fall apart. He didn't see many people who said they were Christian but also talked and walked like one.

He was the role model despite his destructive habits. The person is smoking The person is drinking He says he was lost.

Even though the state told him to do no wrong, he never felt right. While Haley was proclaiming his birthday, he was wondering why. He says that he appreciated your support and that he ran the ball for your team. Would you continue to be a fan if you knew who I really was?

Even as he began to reject the idea of fame, he continued to cling to it.

He wants people to know he's human. I didn't feel like a person.

The 49ers drafted Lattimore, here rehabbing in a pool, in the fourth round in 2013. It soon became clear he was not the same player he'd been before his injury. John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

Jay Locey is the head coach of Lewis & Clark. He's interested in you." He's interested in us.

In what will be his last season before he retires, Locey stands on a pool deck in Happy Valley, Oregon, in the idyllic outskirts of Portland, officially welcoming Lattimore to the Pioneers football program.

The entire team has gathered at the home of an assistant coach for Happy Valley Olympics, the home of the annual summer camp for the Pioneers. Lattimore is on a deck chair and is ready to greet the crowd.

He says he's honored to be here. Rarely do you get a vision in your head. It's rare that it happens. This is what I thought would happen.

Lattimore joined Lewis & Clark in 2020, but because of the Pandemic, he only now fully immerses himself with the team. There were no strings that made him want to join the football team at Lewis & Clark. Lattimore and his wife were going to move to France in March 2020 and had decided to rent a cottage in the countryside. They went back to Portland because it seemed like a good place for a fresh start, even though they had only been there once before. Lattimore researched football programs in the area and reached out to Locey out of the blue.

An email was waiting for the coach when he got to his computer.

The person is Marcus Lattimore. I would like to work with the football team.

I'm wondering if this Lattimore is like South Carolina Lattimore. Locey said it. He didn't give himself a name.

Locey did not have an opening for a staff member. They hatched a plan that Lattimore would join their ranks to focus on player development.

He would meet one-on-one with the newcomers to work on their schedules. He talked to them aboutaboo topics. In the future, he would help athletes find internship opportunities. He would give himself as an open book, talking through his own issues with one player. He admitted that he couldn't wrap his head around what people were seeing.

Lattimore (38), talking with 49ers teammates at minicamp in 2014, would retire later that year. "Even when I retired, I still felt pressured to be something, to be this person for everybody," he says now. Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

He told them that they don't suffer in silence. He was well-versed in hiding from South Carolina. He didn't want to hide for his new charges.

The development of players tugged at Lattimore when he was offered the running backs coaching position. At the Happy Valley Olympics, he talked about that.

He had his own vision. Spurrier is ecstatic to hear of Lattimore's latest endeavor. Is that correct?" What about Lewis and Clark? That doesn't surprise me because I didn't know that. It's him. His calling in life is that.

He decided after the 2021 football season that he wanted to focus on developing players. He gave up his running back responsibilities and his title as director of player development. He expanded his role as a mentor to high schools in the Portland area after taking on the role of team mentor.

Lattimore and his wife have the freedom of time to explore other interests. This place has given them the space to grow into newer, bigger versions of themselves, as a result of writing for him and yoga for her. His patchwork of savings is enough for now even if he isn't earning an income. The small percent of insurance coverage he was able to secure after his injury, the rookies contract he was able to sign, and the marketing and speaking opportunities that he earned simply because his name was Marcus Lattimore. Football and fame gave him the time and safety net to find out who he really is.

Oregon has become what Lattimore wants it to be. The state is a sanctuary to him because he provides sanctuary to teenagers. The man can breathe here. I don't always wait for someone to show up. Sometimes I don't need to be on. To be the person.

Marcus Lattimore was not that man's real name. The man is named Marcus Lattimore.

Marcus Lattimore is a writer. There is a book for young football stars on how to navigate their fame. "Landmine" is his work in progress. It is possible for Marcus Lattimore to go to Crater Lake. He says that a place can be so destructive at the time.

Marcus Lattimore's love for football waned in his last years in South Carolina, but he has rediscovered his passion for the sport. He didn't want to understand what he found on the other side of the game, which was a Division I employee. The money, politics and the way football is played felt unimportant.

He says it's D-I in itself. It is too large now. It is too large for me.

The Pioneers coaching staff watches film in classrooms in the academic building next to the football facility. If a player wants to have their own locker for the season, they have to sign up to reserve one.

He sounds like he's mounting a defense when he says we have enough. We have what we need, that's what we have. It is similar to playing in the mud. I feel like I'm in South Carolina. Even if it was just an illusion back then, it felt purer.

He's running towards it even when he's not at home.

Lattimore found his passion for football as a player development coach at Lewis & Clark. "That's him," says former coach Steve Spurrier. "That's his calling in life." Steve Gibbons/Lewis & Clark College

It's like a night back home in South Carolina. The temperature has dipped into the low 40s, so every time the horde of fans who have assembled to watch the Byrnes Rebels in their first-round Class AAAAA playoff game at Nixon Field yell about a play on the field, their breaths go out in short, foggy spurts. There is fog in the sky.

Ott Sizemore is sitting at the 50-yard line. He worked in education for 40 years and is a bit like the mayor of Nixon Field, shaking hands with any number of fans as they walk up the stairs. He has a state championship ring on his right hand. The ring is from the era of Lattimore. The banners of Lattimore's championship winning days stand guard over Sizemore's shoulder.

He says that Marcus is one of their favorites. Sizemore knows Lattimore and feels like he does. Lattimore was invited to a birthday party by his friend's son. He knows her from working in the school system.

When Lattimore was a Rebel, Sizemore didn't miss a single game and he sat in the 14th row in the north end zone. The last time Lattimore played an official down of football was when he went down against Tennessee.

He clutches at his heart after saying something died inside.

The game was decided by the score of 30-20. In its last game of the season, Lewis & Clark will be defeated by George Fox. This is alright by Lattimore. Even refreshing.

He does not miss the circus.

Lattimore admitted that he needed to leave South Carolina in order to be seen by the people there. When he left South Carolina, he saw it with fresh eyes as well. Part of it is the circus of football.

With fresh eyes, he realized that he had played for the Byrnes Rebels without ever questioning the nature of that name or the banner under which they played. "If we don't find a legal way of preventing the mixing of races in the schools, it will mark the beginning of the end of civilization in the South as we have known it," wrote James F.

If he walked into a restaurant, the white person at the counter would turn obsequious only once it became clear he wasn't just another Black teenager.

He saw the bounds of his admirers' good will when he shrugged his football persona off. Lattimore was resigned to the fact that his challenge to the former coach of his was hurting him. He said that he lost a lot of fans. It wasn't to be loved by everyone.

He can see his home with a better view. He sees his place in the future.

It's not yet. It probably won't happen soon. They are where they have to be. He says that they love who they are here. We're a lot more used to it. comfortable with who we are

He will have Portland to thank for his perseverance when he comes back. There was no sound there. He was able to build resilience there.

He says he is able to live anywhere now. He had to leave the house.

The peace he's found in Portland; his writing; his self-reflection; and the black Hall of Fame jacket he once wanted to rip off are all going to be put away. He can see what's going on.

He said it was a vision. There is an opportunity for me to help the community in South Carolina. I'll get that chance one day, and then I'll return. That's where I'm at. It's roots.