Former running back Marcus Lattimore, who returned to his alma mater in January to work with student-athletes on off-field matters, believes the 49ers will be under additional scrutiny in next week’s NFL draft.
“They definitely have to be more thorough in the investigation process and the interviewing process,” Lattimore said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.
“I think every team has pressure for that, but I think it definitely puts a spotlight on the San Francisco 49ers, given what’s happened over the past couple of weeks with so many things – and the past couple of years.”
Last year, the 49ers took a gamble with the first-round selection of linebacker Reuben Foster, who was considered a character risk after failing a drug test and being sent home from the NFL scouting combine after an altercation with a hospital worker.
Foster’s future in the NFL is unsettled as he faces three felony charges, including domestic violence.
Lattimore was a fourth-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2013 despite sustaining a gruesome knee injury in late-October. The 49ers took a chance on Lattimore in large part because of his exemplary character.
After rehabbing for more than two years, Lattimore realized there was no way his knee would ever enable him to play football. He retired in November 2014.
Lattimore spoke about the Foster situation on the podcast. He agreed with the 49ers’ decision to ask Foster to remain away from the team’s offseason program while the legal process plays out.
Lattimore said any athlete found guilty of a crime must be held accountable for his actions. He also said it is important for universities and professional organizations to make investments in the mental health of their athletes.
“These guys are glorified on a day-to-day basis,” Lattimore said. “Reuben Foster, when he was on Alabama’s campus, he was the governor. That’s part of it. We don’t see them as humans. We see them as action figures, and that cannot be the case.”
Lattimore, 26, said he would ultimately like to become an NFL general manager. He was hired at South Carolina in January as director of player development for life skills. In his time with the 49ers, he was around plenty of positive examples, he said, naming Patrick Willis and Justin Smith.
“(They) really represent everything you want in a 49er,” Lattimore said. “That’s the standard, and that’s what everybody is shooting for.”