The banners and trophies were impressive, as they were meant to be. Any recruit Alabama wants, it usually gets.
Alabama wanted Aaron Sterling.
Sterling wanted something else.
“I didn’t get a feeling when I went down there,” Sterling said. “Every time I went to South Carolina, I was like, ‘I’m happy I’m down here.’ ”
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Sterling made official what was long thought on Wednesday, choosing the Gamecocks over Tennessee during his National Signing Day ceremony. Originally committed to the Crimson Tide, Sterling re-opened his recruitment in September.
Will Muschamp, Travaris Robinson and the rest jumped aboard and guided him into the Columbia station.
“Me and coach T-Rob, coach Muschamp, we all got a good relationship with each other,” Sterling said. “I like the players, all the players get along, all the players are cool. It’s a good family environment. It’s like I’m going to another home.”
Sterling, 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, is a defensive end who reckons to play right away even as he’s bulking up. He was part of a group led by defensive linemen and wide receivers that gave USC a Top-20 class. Sterling had 77 tackles, 19.5 for loss, with 15.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception last year.
It was a strange morning for Sterling and the two fan bases hoping to land him. USC had Sterling listed on its recruiting page two hours before his ceremony before removing him. Then Tennessee released a graphic of Sterling in orange, welcoming him to its class, before yanking it (the school said it was a mistake).
There wasn’t much doubt what Sterling would do, as he strode onstage in a black suit, garnet shirt and matching tie. He did carry his garnet USC cap in a light blue bag for a bit of mystery, but once he tugged it into place, it wasn’t coming off.
Not Wednesday, and not much for the next four to five years.
“I was just thinking would Alabama be a fit for me, would I like being at Alabama. After thinking about it, it wasn’t for me,” Sterling said. “It just came down to me praying about it, asking God to help me, asking my parents to help me. He just kept showing me that South Carolina was the place for me to be.
“This is the right school for me.”
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