South Carolina made a big impression on Darin Smalls with his first scholarship offer.
That impression only grew the last seven months as the Gamecocks recruited the Summerville High defensive back harder than any other school.
Smalls (5-11, 205) on Saturday made his commitment to the Gamecocks for the class of 2014 while at USC for a seven-on-seven event.
"It was a pretty big Saturday," he said. "I felt like it was the right moment. I was ready to make my decision."
Smalls became the seventh commitment for USC's 2014 class and the fifth from South Carolina.
The Gamecocks offered Smalls in early December have been the leaders for his services throughout the recruiting process.
He originally planned to wait until signing day but made his pledge Saturday because it was the right time, not because he was worried a spot wouldn't still be there for him in February, he said.
"I figured - why wait?" Smalls said. "I like the surroundings and the campus. The people are great. All the coaches, I get along with them very well. We have a good relationship."
The consensus three-star prospect is the top-rated defensive back in South Carolina for 2014 and the 13th best instate player, according to 247SportsComposite, which factors in all rankings.
Smalls last season had 58 tackles and five interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. He also had more than 600 return yards and three scores.
He had six interceptions his sophomore season, two of those returns for touchdowns, to go with 60 tackles.
Smalls made his commitment in person to recruiter Everette Sands, secondary coach Grady Brown and recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr.
"I wanted to do it in person instead of over the phone," Smalls said. "They get to see that I'm serious about it. They were happy. They were excited about it."
He also had offers from Clemson, Virginia Tech, Florida, State, NC State, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Tennessee, Louisville and Oklahoma.
Though he said he is 100 percent committed to the Gamecocks, he still plans to take visits - possibly to Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
He could play corner or safety at South Carolina, as well as be a part in the return game. He will also play receiver as a senior at Summerville, but his future is on defense.
As he played in Saturday's seven-on-seven event at Williams-Brice Stadium, he couldn't help but think that he'd be back one day - perhaps in December for a state championship and then eventually as a Gamecock.
"When we went into the stadium, I was thinking about that a lot," said Smalls, who is regarded as a fast and physical player. "I can play the ball well. I'm known for shutting down receivers if I'm in one-one-on coverage on an island."