THIBODAUX, La. -- On an emotional day, wide receiver Trovon Reed put on an orange Auburn cap and a white Auburn jersey and declared Friday he will play football for the Tigers.
It was his late mother's birthday, and Reed knew she would be proud. Roszaina Johnson died March 6 from stomach cancer.
There was no big show, no switching of hats. After almost breaking down at the podium as he recalled his mother, he reached beneath the podium and put on his Auburn cap.
"I'm going to the University of Auburn," he said, making the same harmless mistake on the school name that running back Michael Dyer made a week ago. And that was that.
The secret was already out. If there was any doubt, it went away when numerous family members arrived at the Thibodaux High School gymnasium wearing Auburn shirts and caps. Reed plays quarterback for Thibodaux, but he is rated the nation's No. 9 wide receiver prospect and No. 45 in the ESPNU 150. He is Auburn's 21st commitment.
The pressure was heavy for Reed, the state of Louisiana's top prospect, to choose LSU. Even Thibodaux coach Dennis Lorio left no doubt that's what he wanted. But it wasn't what Reed wanted.
"It's hard, but you have to do what you want to do," Reed said. "People that are mad at me are just diehard LSU fans. What about the people that come from out of town to come to LSU? That's how I feel about the whole thing."
Reed said he felt something special about Auburn from the first time he visited last spring. LSU turned his head. He gave serious consideration to Oregon after an official visit. But, in the end, he did what he'd planned to do for months.
"My heart was at Auburn," Reed said.
Reed said it was the family feeling he got at Auburn -- from wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor, from recruiting coach Curtis Luper, from head coach Gene Chizik, from the players, from the fans.
"They treat me like family," Reed said. "When I walked into Coach Trooper's office, he had 'Trooper's family.' It was his family and all his receivers. They do everything at his house. They have keys to his house. That's like family. That's like me going to my sister's house."
Reed said making his announcement on his mother's birthday was at once difficult and wonderful.
"It was too special. I knew it was going to be a good day. I went to bed about 8, woke up at 12 and said a big prayer for my mom on her birthday. I really couldn't go back to sleep, like she was holding me up. I was up all night and I'm still not tired."
Sean Nelson, Reed's friend and mentor since he was in the sixth grade, helped him through the process as he has helped others.
"I love Auburn," Nelson said. "It may have been my second or third time up there, I was on the last stretch coming from Montgomery. I said 'Man, it feels like I'm going home.'
"It's just a family vibe. Read other articles and you'll see every kid says the same thing. Coach Trooper, Lupe, Coach Chiz, Coach (Gus) Malzahn, it's a friendly place. It reminds you of Thibodaux in a way. I think it's a good fit for him, not only for football but academics."
Reed said he will keep a promise to a former coach and make a visit to Northwestern (La.) State. But he said, barring some kind of wholesale change at Auburn, the recruiting process is over for him.
"I don't have anymore stress on my back," Reed said.
Lorio, who formerly coached at LSU, said Auburn is getting a special player and person.
"When Trovon plays for us, we are a two- or three-touchdown better team," Lorio said. "He has that characteristic of being a great player. He also has that characteristic of, when he's out there, he makes everybody else better. Even when he just hands the ball off, we run better, we block better."
Lorio said Reed's potential on the field is unlimited.
"I coached at LSU for three years," he said. "Eddie Kennison was there. They have the same burst, the same vision, the same sideways movement. Trovon's hands are probably a little better than Eddie's and Eddie played in the NFL for about 12 years."
Reed, Lorio said, had to withstand significant pressure to leave the state.
"None of these people in the gym are being recruited," he said. "Trovon is being recruited. It's his life and if he thinks that's his best opportunity, I'll support him. I will support him every year he's at Auburn. I will support LSU for life."
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