ST. MATTHEWS — After months of speculation and visits from some of college football’s best-known coaches, Alshon Jeffery sat in front of a bank of microphones Wednesday and announced he was going to USC.
Not the USC he committed to last summer located 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast, but the one a half-hour up I-26 in the city where both his parents work.
Jeffery, the Calhoun County receiver and The State’s top-rated player, is staying home.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jeffery, a national Rivals100 selection, said he wanted “to try to represent for the home team.
“We’re going to do it big at South Carolina,” he added.
Jeffery was the last of seven Calhoun County players to sign his letter of intent during a ceremony in the school gym. He had a little fun with the announcement, telling the crowd of 100 he was headed to USC.
Next, he said he was going to “the University of Southern California” as someone unfurled a Trojans’ blanket behind him. Finally, he pulled on a black Gamecocks cap and said he was “going to stay in state and go to South Carolina,” drawing a big cheer from the students and teachers sitting in the bleachers.
It’s doubtful anyone was more pleased than his parents, Charles and Deloris Jeffery — neither of whom has flown — who were not crazy about the prospect of traveling to Los Angeles the next four years.
“I told him I thought Southern Cal was too far, and he had a decision between USC and Tennessee,” Deloris Jeffery said. “And he chose USC. That was a relief on me.”
Jeffery’s mother said she would have overcome her fear of flying to watch her son play.
“Not my dad,” Jeffery said. “He said that was out of the question.”
Jeffery committed to the Trojans in June after attending one of their camps. But he later re-opened his recruitment, prompting a steady stream of coaches visiting St. Matthews, including USC’s Steve Spurrier, Southern Cal’s Pete Carroll and new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin.
The process wore on Jeffery and Calhoun County coach Walt Wilson, who was still receiving calls from recruiters until 2 a.m. Wednesday.
“It was a long process, a lot of stress,” Jeffery said. “I’m glad it’s over.”
Jeffery caught 30 passes for 693 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior, earning invitations to the Shrine Bowl and the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando.
“He’s one of a kind. I’m going to miss him,” Wilson said. “He has that ‘it’ you can’t teach. I’m very positive he’ll make an impact with the Gamecocks.”
Calhoun County offensive coordinator Duane Wages said Jeffery, a starter for the Saints’ basketball team, has untapped potential.
“His upside — he’s going to be every bit as good as A.J. Green when he gets in a college setting,” Wages said of the Georgia receiver and former Summerville star. “Alshon never lifted a weight, so everything he’s doing is off natural ability.”
USC coaches thought enough of Jeffery that they told him he could continue to wear No. 2, the retired jersey of former Gamecock great Sterling Sharpe.
“They’re bringing it out of retirement,” said Jeffery, adding that Spurrier told him Sharpe’s jersey would remain retired but the number would be used.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Sharpe said he had no knowledge about plans for his jersey or number.
Whatever his jersey number, Jeffery said he is looking forward to playing in Williams-Brice Stadium and getting to work on his own legacy.
“I love the atmosphere out there on Saturday nights,” he said. “It’s live out there.”
Closer to home, too.
Bob Gillespie contributed to this story.
Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.