Southern Miss found the anchor of their 2017 signing class on Wednesday afternoon when Gautier Offensive lineman Paul Gainer announced his decision in front of family, friends, and media.
Gainer, long time Mississippi State commitment, opened his recruiting back up in early January, and three teams immediately jumped in to try and bring the big man on board.
"I had mutiple offers but I decided to take those three visits," Gainer told GoldenEaglePride.com.
"I went to Tulane, Southern Miss, and ULL. I felt very comfortable with all those schools but Southern Miss really stood out a little bit more. I was committed to Mississippi State but they were still talking to me and that just really meant a lot to me.
"Then when it came down to deciding where I would go they just stood above the rest and I knew they were my school."
Gainer took his official visit with a huge crop of prospects in Hattiesburg on the weekend of January 20th. There were many things that stood out to him in that visit, but he was won over by the welcome he received from the staff and faculty at Southern Miss.
"I loved the campus, the people, and the coaches were just tremendous," he explained.
"The coaches were just great guys. Coach Hopson is a hometown guy, he's a Mississippi native. Also I was able to meet Coach Losey who is just a great guy and we meshed really well. They are just great guys who encouraged me a lot and I knew I'd be in good hands with them.
"I knew it was the best place for me. Coach Hop told me that I'll always be proud to say many years from now that Mississippi was my home and I stayed with the home team."
Gainer didn't talk to the media during his visits because he wanted to solely focus on his decision without distraction. Many had a feeling Southern Miss had an edge, but it wasn't until he pulled out that Southern Miss jersey at a signing day event at his school that everyone knew for sure. It was one that brought drama and a lot of cheers throughout the pine belt, as everyone associated with USM anxiously awaited his decision.
"Today was really surreal," he said of NSD.
"I really didn't expect all that but man it was so fun. It was just a blessing to have that many people around that cared for me and my teammates. It was really special to all of us. It feels good."
Gainer will get to work preparing for his opportunity quickly approaching at Southern Miss.
"I know now that I can fully focus on lifting weights and staying in shape," he said.
"I am determined to come in and make a difference. I'm staying focused on school too and enjoying my senior year and graduating."
Scout.com highlights of Gainer: LINK