Inside Jaamal Berry's Decision

Ohio State fans were largely surprised to find the Buckeyes accepting a verbal commitment from the nation's No. 5 running back prospect August 31 as broke the news. Find out what went into Jaamal Berry's surprise visit to Columbus, why he picked the Buckeyes and what other trips he might still have in mind.

For his mother's birthday, Jaamal Berry presented her with a scarlet-and-gray surprise.

In town on his second unofficial visit to check out Ohio State, the nation's No. 5 running back prospect was seated in Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel's office along with his mother, Eartha. It was one day after the Buckeyes had trounced visiting Youngstown State on August 30, and it also happened to be his mother's birthday.

It was during the meeting that Berry shocked the world when he opted to end his recruitment and issued a verbal commitment to the Buckeyes. Although he had brought her along so she could see the OSU campus, Berry had not consulted his mother before making his announcement.

"It was a little surprise for her," he told "She was happy. She was just saying she is happy if I'm happy and that this is my decision. She's happy for me."

So, too, was Tressel, even if he was somewhat composed in showing that emotion.

"He really doesn't have that much emotion, but he smiled and everything," Berry said. "You could tell he was happy for me. He was like, ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do?' and I said, ‘Yes, sir.' "

After visiting OSU for the school's spring game in late April, Berry had been listing the Buckeyes as his top school ever since. That did not stop him from listing interest in other schools such as LSU, Florida, Ole Miss and Michigan, among others.

It took one more unofficial visit – this one with his mother in tow – to seal the deal for the 5-11, 193-pound Berry.

"I came in for the spring game and I loved the place," he said. "I just wanted my mom to see and to see how she liked it. She loved it too up here. I love everything about it. It makes me feel like I'm at home.

"The football players, everyone's cool and they make me feel like I'm at home. Their facilities are great, their academics, everything about the school is great. They have a great football team overall."

While on their unofficial visit, both Berry and his mother said they were impressed with what the university has to offer from an academic standpoint. Berry will take the ACT for the first time this October and reports a 2.5 core GPA.

He was also accompanied on his trip by teammate Darryl Williams, a two-star wide receiver prospect, as well as Jason Winters, his mentor and former Pop Warner coach.

The trip had been a long time coming, Berry said.

"Ohio State's been my leader for a while and my mom just hadn't seen the place," he said. "I wanted her to get up here and see it. I just felt like this was the place I want to be."

However, Berry's recruitment might not completely be a done deal. He will "probably, maybe" be taking official visits to LSU and Ole Miss as well, he said. He will take an official visit to OSU for the Michigan game Nov. 22.

After getting to take in OSU's spring game, the overall experience of seeing an actual game in Ohio Stadium impressed Berry.

"The intensity of the whole of Columbus is great," he said. "Everyone loves football here. They breathe football. It's crazy. It was the first game of the season against Youngstown State and they beat them pretty bad like I expected, but it was great."

Berry's commitment gives the Buckeyes a full slate of 25 verbal commitments for their class of 2009. OSU recruiting coordinator John Peterson is not allowed to comment on specific recruits until after they have signed national letters-of-intent, but he told reporters during the week leading up to the YSU game that he hoped the class would not stretch higher than 26 or 27 members.

With his decision, Berry becomes the fourth running back to commit to the Buckeyes. Fullback Adam Homan from Coldwater, Ohio, was the first to do so, and running back Jordan Hall from Jeannette, Pa., was next in line. Naples, Fla., back Carlos Hyde was the third, and although he is pegged as the No. 1 fullback prospect in the country, he has said the OSU coaches might use him at tailback as well.

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