ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall prospect in the country, committed to in-state South Carolina over Clemson and Alabama on Monday from his school auditorium at South Pointe High School. He made the announcement live on ESPN's "SportsCenter."
"I chose them because it's close to home," Clowney said from the podium. "I chose them because I have friends there and my mom can come see me all the time. I can't wait to play with Gerald Dixon [a South Pointe teammate who signed with South Carolina] and with all those boys."
Clowney elected not to make his decision on national signing day, Feb. 2, and a big reason was because Clemson made a late push. He visited the Tigers the weekend of Jan. 28 and it gave him something to think about.
"I was very close to going to Clemson," Clowney said. "Clemson really had me thinking and I wasn't sure. I watched what they did on signing day, and they got some great players. My mom liked them, but in the end I wanted to play in the SEC."
Another reason Clowney selected the Gamecocks over Alabama and Clemson was because of the South Carolina coaching staff.
"I have a real good relationship with [defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson]. But an even better one with coach [Lorenzo] Ward," Clowney said. "We got real close."
While many believed the decision was just made, Clowney said he came to a conclusion last week regarding where he wanted to play college football.
"This is huge for us. Jadeveon is a high impact player and is a talent that doesn't come along very often. Just as important is the message it sends to everyone that there are great players in this state and if you come to South Carolina you can accomplish all your goals and win," said Shane Beamer, South Carolina's recruiting coordinator. "Clowney today, and we have guys like [Marcus] Lattimore, [Stephone] Gilmore, [Alshon] Jeffrey that were all great in-state guys that came to the Gamecocks. This is another great day for South Carolina and this state. We are very excited."
Of late, much has been made about Clowney and his academic status because of a New York Times story from last week. In it, questions were raised by Troy Davis -- the coach at Hargrave Military Academy, a post-graduate school -- and Clowney's teachers about whether he would qualify academically to play right away. However, Clowney believes it is a nonissue.
"It's [academics] taken care of," Clowney said. "I am taking classes, and I will get in."
His former head coach, Bobby Carroll, said Clowney will be fine and will be enrolled at South Carolina this fall.
"I would bet a million dollars that Clowney will qualify," Carroll said. "While he hasn't been the perfect student, he's not a bad student at all. He knows what he needs to do, especially in his core classes, and he will get it done, I promise you."
Clowney was a star the minute he stepped foot on the South Pointe campus. He initially starred at running back on the Stallions' freshman team and scored 36 touchdowns. The following year Clowney made the full-time switch to defensive end and registered 17 sacks in helping South Pointe to its first state championship. Over the final two years of his brilliant high school career, Clowney recorded 57 sacks and led his team to the state semifinals as a junior and the state championship game as a senior.
Carroll spent four years watching and coaching Clowney. He knows better than anyone what Clowney is capable of once he gets to the next level.
"There is no doubt in my mind that he will make an impact at South Carolina from day one," Carroll said. "If he put a few more pounds on right now he could probably go to the NFL. Most of the college coaches that came through here said the same thing. This kid is that good."
Now it's time to move on to bigger and better things. Clowney believes he can make a big impact for South Carolina and its future defense. In the end, he hopes to help take Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks program to even greater heights.
"I will play [right away] and make a lot of plays," Clowney said. "As soon as I step in there I will start, and I expect to make big plays."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.