Marcus Lattimore is almost there.
Months and months of rehab are complete. The gruesome knee injury suffered at South Carolina has receded into the past. After the NFL equivalent of a redshirt season with the San Francisco 49ers, Lattimore is ready to make his proper professional debut.
That journey begins Monday when the Niners open their offseason conditioning program. Lattimore will have no restrictions -- he's finally on even footing with the rest of his teammates.
"After my injury, I just wanted to walk again," Lattimore told GoGamecocks.com on Friday. "It was tough, very tough. We're a playoff team, so we play 20-plus games. Being on that sideline, we got so close to the Super Bowl title the last three years.
"But I'm blessed to be in this situation. Never would have thought in a million years I'd be in this situation."
The running back enters a crowded backfield in San Francisco. Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are entrenched. LaMichael James reportedly was moved to the trade block after requesting a bigger role in the running game.
"If that happens, it does put me in that No. 3 spot," Lattimore said of a possible James trade. "But I've just got to go in there and work hard. I can pass-protect and run the ball. I've got to show that."
He added: "If I prove it in practice, I don't think there's no excuse why I can't play. I'm ready."
Gore has made a career of outlasting pretenders to the throne in San Francisco's backfield, but he can't go on forever. Once one of the nation's top collegiate tailbacks, Lattimore should get his chance to show if he still has it.