Northwestern defensive lineman Rod Byers struggled with his decision.
Would it be stay close to home and play for the South Carolina Gamecocks or Clemson Tigers? Or travel across the country to play for the University of Oregon Ducks?
Byers announced his choice on Wednesday in the school’s media center. Byers called his teammates to the podium, praised them and his coaches and pulled a baseball cap from a plastic bad. He’s going to be a Duck.
"This isn’t just about me,’" he said. "It’s about my teammates and how they have supported me. We’ve been through good times and bad times. These guys are my family, my brothers. We have a tight circle and have stuck together.’’
He narrowed his favorites to Clemson, Oregon and South Carolina. He whittled it to three before deciding where to go.
Byers laughed and said the fancy and colorful the Ducks are famous for didn’t have an impact on his decision. But Byers said he likes them, that “if you look good you play good.’’
“I visited Oregon last weekend and made my decision while I was there,’’ Byers said. “It felt like home; great coaches, great school and great facilities. The coaches told my I will compete right away, could even start. That’s my goal.
“The recruiting process is tough. Everybody seemed to by pushing me to South Carolina. Some wanted me at Clemson. It’s going to be tough being away from my family. I’m a high school senior making a man’s decision. It was hard because all three schools are good."
Telling any of the schools he was choosing another was hard. South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson came to Northwestern for a visit today at noon. Oregon coach Chip Kelly, the AP's Division I Coach of the Year, and a Ducks' assistant were there at 1:30, according to Trojans coach Jimmy Wallace.
Byers, 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, helped lead Northwestern to its first undefeated season. The Trojans finished 15-0 and beat Greenwood 42-10 in the Class AAAA Division II state championship game at Williams-Brice Stadium, home of the Gamecocks.
He had 98 tackles, 7 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 2 caused fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 8 QB pressures and 3 pass deflections.
Verbal commitments are not binding. Byers' decision will not be official until he signs on Feb. 2, National Signing Day across the country.
Byers is the third DI recruit off this year's team. Quarterback Justin Worley graduated early and is enrolled at Tennessee. Defensive lineman Gerald Dixon recently committed to South Carolina.
Oregon, a member of the PAC 10, was 12-1 this season, losing the BCS championship game 22-19 to Auburn on a last second field goal in Phoenix, Ariz.
South Carolina enjoyed one of its best seasons. The Gamecocks won the SEC East championship for the first time and posted a 9-4 record. The Gamecocks lost 26-17 to Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.