ROCK HILL, SC (WIS) - Gamecock Nation got an extra special Valentine's Day gift Monday in the form of a 6-foot-6, 255-pound football player named Jadeveon Clowney.
The country' stop recruit walked into his high school auditorium Monday morning and said the words Gamecock fans all over the world have been waiting for -- that he would commit to play football for USC in the fall.
Clowney made the announcement surrounded by friends and family and broadcasting on television to a national audience. The actual announcement was delayed because Clowney waited for ESPN to come back from a commercial break and ask him a few questions.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, Head Coach Steve Spurrier also thanked fans at a recent USC basketball game who chanted "We want Clowney." "That seems to work," said the Head Ball Coach. "Last year when we had Marcus Lattimore they chanted, and he signed with us, so keep chanting."
However, Spurrier said only time will tell if Clowney will live up to the hype. "Certainly he'll have an opportunity to come in an earn a starting position just like Marcus Lattimore did last year," said Spurrier.
The South Pointe High School defensive end had been the most sought-after recruit in this year's class for many schools across the country, but in the end it came down to just three: South Carolina, Clemson and Alabama.
Clowney said he wanted to play in the SEC, and the University of South Carolina is closer to Rock Hill than the other two schools. "[USC] is close to home," he said. "My mom can come see me play all the time."
Clowney says Alabama impressed him when he made his official visit. "When I went to Alabama, I was really close to choosing Alabama," he said. "I had fun down there. I really didn't want to come back home."
Clemson also made a good impression with the Clowney family. "My mom actually liked Clemson, but I really want to play in the SEC," he said.
Jadeveon credited Carolina Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward as the coach who closed the deal for the Gamecocks. "He came in about two months before all this kicked off and started recruiting me personally, calling a lot," said Clowney. "He's like a homeboy to me. We got real close."
The newest Gamecock decided to wait until his February 14 birthday to let the nation know where he'd chosen to play. He told several media outlets last week that he had already made his decision and that the only person who knew his final pick was his mother.
Clowney said he picked South Carolina because he felt at home at the school. "I was thinking about that," said Clowney to 24/7sports.com. "I was lying around one night and came up with my decision, said that's where I'm going to end up going."
Clowney tallied 29.5 sacks, 29 tackles for a loss, and forced almost a dozen fumbles and 6 fumble recoveries in his senior year of high school. He led South Pointe to 38 wins in his career and also the 2008 state title.
Clowney was also voted, "Mr. Football," the best football player in the state by the South Carolina Football Coaches Association. He becomes the third straight "Mr. Football" in the state of South Carolina to sign with the Gamecocks, following in the footsteps of Stephon Gilmore and Marcus Lattimore.
Clowney was regarded as a five-star prospect and the nation's top high school player by Rivals.com and was named their national Defensive Player of the Year. He was considered a five-star recruit and the nation's top player by Scout.com. He was the No. 1 prospect in the nation according to 247Sports and was considered the nation's top player by PrepStar magazine, while earning first-team All-America accolades by MaxPreps and Rivals.com. He was also rated as the No. 1 prospect on ESPNU's 150.
[Watch Clowney's senior highlights here (YouTube.com)]
He will join a Gamecock team that won the SEC East championship in 2010, but fell short of a 10 win season losing the SEC championship game to eventual National Champion Auburn and to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Rick Henry and Taylor Kearns will have complete coverage of the announcement and reaction starting on the News at 5pm.