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      Lattimore still hopeful after NFL combine examination

      INDIANAPOLIS (WACH) - After being examined by doctors at the NFL combine Friday, former Gamecock Marcus Lattimore is still hopeful his injures won't jeopardize his NFL career.

      Every NFL team was represented during Lattimore's almost four-hour physical evaluation process.

      "Some said pretty good, some said keep working," said Lattimore. "But, I think it went well. I think it went very well because a lot of guys were surprised by how strong my quads were, and how strong my hamstrings were and how tight my ligaments were."

      Lattimore would have likely been the first runningback taken in April's draft if he hadn't sustained a gruesome, season-ending knee injury against Tennesee last October, tearing his ACL, PCL and LCL. It was the second straight season-ending knee injury of Lattimore's career. He tore the ACL in his other knee during his sophomore season.

      His orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, who is considered a foremost authority in his field, says Lattimore has put on weight, made tremendous progress in his rehabilitation and is far ahead of schedule.

      "He's twice as far along as we ever expected him to be. He's so self motivated," Andrews told USA TODAY Sports earlier this week. "This weight he's put on has been all muscle, which is absolutely impossible in most cases. It remains to be seen if he can play this season."

      Despite that positive progress, the runningback's draft-day stock has taken a significant hit. Lattimore is being pegged as a mid to late-round pick, but as more and more analysts monitor his recovery he has been projected as high as a third-round choice.

      Lattimore is still considered one of the bigger question marks of the 2013 NFL Draft, but South Carolina's all-time touchdown leader remains hopeful his injuries will not derail his NFL dreams. He points to successful returns by NFL runningbacks Frank Gore, Willis McGahee and Adrian Peterson as success stories. Peterson returned this past season to rush for 2,000 yards and an MVP season.

      That not only has Lattimore thinking he will play again, but has him thinking he will be ready for the 2013 NFL season.

      "He (Peterson) came back better. And that's what I plan on doing, just coming back better," said Lattimore. "It's a blessing to be here. I just think about guys who are less fortunate than me, guys who would kill to be in my shoes right now, even with the injury. That's what keeps me going, that's what keeps me motivated."

      Lattimore will not participate in any physical drills at this weekend's combine. He says he plans to start running again on Monday and has a goal of taking part in South Carolina's pro-timing day in late March.