His Own Decision

Five-star defensive back Antonio Conner isn't the first player from powerhouse South Panola High School in Batesville, Miss., to sign with Ole Miss.

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From Nick Brassell to Peria and John Jerry, Jamarca Sanford, Eddie Strong and Issac Gross, South Panola has been good to Ole Miss, churning out talent each and every year.

However, despite a long tradition of talented former Tigers graduating from South Panola to Ole Miss, Conner said his decision to spurn Alabama, who has won three of the last four national championships, for the Rebels was his decision and no one else's.

"I'm my own man," he said following his announcement on National Signing Day, which was broadcast nationally by ESPNU. "I made my own decision. I talked it over with my mom and them. I don't care what other people think. It was about me and my family."

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Conner, rated the No. 3 safety in the country by Scout.com and the No. 18 overall prospect, held offers from Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, Oregon and South Carolina.

He said he made his decision over the weekend, following an official visit to Mississippi State. He sat down with his family and weighed his options. Ole Miss was the best fit, especially for his mother, who played a vital role in the process.

"As we went on visits, I mainly looked back and looked at my mom to see how happy she was," he said. "She was happy at Alabama, she was happy at Ole Miss. But it turned out she was a little bit more happy at Ole Miss. They have a good program. Things are going to be turned around over there."

Conner signs his LOI
Ben Garrett

Ole Miss was 7-6 last season in the first year under Hugh Freeze. The addition of Conner continued a busy day for the Rebels, who signed Robert Nkemdiche, the top prospect in the country, five-star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, five-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and others.

The Rebels also signed four-star running back Kailo Moore, a close friend of Conner's. The two long talked of playing together in college. Now, they'll get their chance.

Scout.com currently ranks Ole Miss' 2013 class as No. 9 in the nation.

"Robert, he made his own commitment. Me and Robert, we talked and all, but he's his own man," Conner said. "I'm my own man. Me and Kailo, we're real close and all. That's my boy. We just keep it real. Me and him have always wanted to play with each other."

Conner helped lead South Panola to a 6A state championship as a senior, his third state championship in four seasons as a Tiger. He was named Mr. Football in Mississippi, after recording 74 tackles and three interceptions.

Conner, accustomed to winning championships, said Alabama was a close second. Its history of success was almost enough.

"It was a real battle. It was hard," he said. "South Panola, we go to the state championship every year. I look at Alabama, they go to the BCS championship every year. It was hard, but I had to do what's best for me."

Conner could challenge for immediate playing time at Ole Miss. The Rebels run a variation of the 4-2-5, meaning Conner could be used in a number of ways.

"It was a hard decision," Conner said. "I looked at the depth chart. (Alabama) had some good great safeties come in last year. (Alabama head coach Nick Saban) was telling me I might get early playing time over there, but I think I have a better chance in my home state. Coach Freeze, me and him are real close. We're like buddies. Coach Freeze is a great coach."

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