SANTA CLARA — Marcus Lattimore, one of college football's most electric running backs before knee injuries felled him, is coming to the 49ers.

The South Carolina star was drafted in Saturday's fourth round with the 131st overall pick.

After tearing three ligaments in his right knee Oct. 27, Lattimore felt his NFL dreams also were shattered.

"I doubted myself and I lost hope," Lattimore said on a conference call with Bay Area media. "One of my good friends came over, I got a chance to talk to (the 49ers') Frank Gore and (the Denver Broncos') Willis McGahee, and I realized God doesn't make mistakes.

"He did everything for a reason. He put me in a situation and now I'm with the 49ers. It's a great, great situation for me."

Gore reached out to Lattimore through 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, a South Carolina product. Gore overcame two knee injuries at the University of Miami to become the 49ers' all-time leading rusher over the past eight seasons.

"He told me to keep that positive mindset, and that's what I've been doing the past five or six months," Lattimore said of his chats and texts with Gore. "That's why I'm doing so great in my rehab."

Gore isn't his only inspiration. McGahee has had a productive NFL career after tearing the same three ligaments that Lattimore did — all but the medial collateral ligament.

Lattimore said he is running sprints, doing box jumps and other activities in his recovery. He won't be rushed back into action, and the 49ers could put him on the reserve/non-football-injury list like rookie running back Jewel Hampton last season.

"If I'm ready to play, I'll play. If I'm not, I'm not," Lattimore said. "Coaches and doctors will make a great decision, I'm not worried about it."

Gore, who turns 30 on May 14, remains the 49ers workhorse and is coming off his second-most productive rushing season (1,214 yards, eight touchdowns).

Gore's backups last season were Kendall Hunter (tore an Achilles on Nov. 25), LaMichael James (2012 second-round pick, fumbled in the Super Bowl) and Anthony Dixon (third-year veteran).

"I can't wait to be part of that running back family, and the whole team is great," Lattimore said.

"It's still surreal to me. This is a great opportunity. It's a great organization and I can't wait to get there. I've always been a fan of those guys and their style of play."

A native of Duncan, S.C., Lattimore ran for 1,197 yards and a school-record 19 touchdowns his freshman year. In seven games as a sophomore, he had 818 yards and 10 touchdowns, then rebounded from his ACL tear last season to average 4.63 yards per carry (662 yards, 11 touchdowns in nine games).

Three picks earlier in the fourth round, the 49ers found another offensive weapon in Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton. Under now-Cal coach Sonny Dykes, Patton put up big numbers over his final two seasons combined: 183 receptions, 2,594 yards and 24 touchdowns. He had seven games with over 100 receiving yards last season.