Payne is a Gamecock

South Carolina picked up its first commitment of the 2009 recruiting class on Thursday morning when Columbia (SC) hard-hitting safety Chris Payne went public with his pledge to Coach David Reaves and the Gamecocks.

Chris Payne, a 5'10", 190 pound defensive back that has drawn many comparisons to current Gamecock safety Emanuel Cook, chose South Carolina over offers from Oklahoma, Clemson, North Carolina and Michigan State. spoke with Payne minutes after he went public with his commitment, and he discussed what factors helped him decide to commit to the Gamecocks.

"I've committed to Carolina," said Payne. "I love the coaching staff, and I know Steve Spurrier's got a plan. He wants to win an SEC Championship just as bad as I want to win it. I want to make history there. The fans are great. I know we're going to win the SEC. I also like how they put DB's in the NFL."

Another factor Payne finds appealing about South Carolina is the opportunity to compete for early playing time.

"Coach Reaves was showing us how many DB's they have on scholarship, and from that standpoint I believe I can come in and compete for a starting position. I don't want nothing given to me. I want to compete, and Carolina's the place to compete at."

Payne, who abruptly committed and then de-committed from Clemson a couple of weeks ago, said he is firm in his pledge to the Gamecocks and that USC is where his heart is.

"It feels good. I'm excited to be a Gamecock," said an enthusiastic Payne. "At Clemson, everything just wowed me and DaMario. I made a bad decision, a quick decision that I never should have made. I knew my heart was at Carolina so I had to follow my heart. Carolina is where I want to be."

One of the sales pitches that the Clemson coaching staff told Payne when he committed to the Tigers last month was how much easier it supposedly is to get in trouble at USC than in the upstate. However, the Columbia native has had time to reflect on those comments and has come to a different conclusion.

"If you're a grown man, you've got to make a choice. (Coaches) can't tell a grown man to stay in his dorm room forever. You make your own choices. Sometimes (players) make bad choices and some choices they make good. Every time a Carolina player does something, it's going to make news. Some players from Clemson do bad stuff, but it doesn't make the news because it's so small there. I know I can stay out of trouble anywhere. It doesn't matter where I'm going for me to stay out of trouble."

The Palmetto State standout said he will now focus on recruiting other top prospects to join him in Columbia.

"Now I can start recruiting and tell everybody what South Carolina is all about. I'm working (DaMario Jeffery), and I'm trying to get Nu'keese Richardson from Florida to commit too."

Payne, who runs a 4.45 second forty yard dash, shared a preview of what Gamecock fans can expect from him on the football field in the coming years.

"I'm going to bring a physical mindset. I'm a player that goes hard every play. I'm unique. I can light the bang in the box. I'm very smart and study my playbook each and every night. I have knowledge of the game."

The highly touted Class of 2009 prospect also discussed what type of person he is off the field.

"I'm funny and outgoing. I'm a ladies' man. I love to hang out with my football players off the field."

Payne plans to major in business and stressed USC's elite business school and plans for the new state of the art academic enrichment center as other factors that attracted him to Carolina.

He plans to accompany DaMario Jeffery to Alabama this weekend, but said he won't talk to any of the Crimson Tide coaches while there.

In his junior season, Payne had 139 tackles, 9 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions. At running back, he totaled 66 rushes for 507 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Payne becomes USC's first commitment in the 2009 recruiting class.

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