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Alabama secures No. 1 safety recruit

GEISMAR, La. -- Though the entire state of Louisiana might have been holding its breath, it didn't sway the decision of Landon Collins.

The Dutchtown High School safety -- considered the top safety and the No. 6 overall recruit in the nation -- remained firm to his verbal commitment made last month, opting to sign with Alabama over in-state power LSU.

"I just loved it there (at Alabama). I loved it every time I went to visit," Collins said. "I loved the players, the coaching staff -- when I first went up there I fell in love with it from the beginning."

That love didn't waver over what has been a trying month for Collins and his family. At this year's Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 5, Collins pledged his services to the Crimson Tide.

If that decision wasn't unfavorable enough, coming from a player living just 20 miles from LSU, it was exacerbated by comments from Collins' mother, April Justin, who said she'd prefer to see her son with the Tigers.

Despite that, Collins said he never questioned his decision.

"I was pretty much stuck on Alabama, and I made the decision at the Under Armour game," he said.

That decision didn't come without careful consideration, however. Before Collins sat down to sign his letter of intent, he had an emotional moment with his mother in the crowded stands of Dutchtown's gym. That emotion carried over into the signing ceremony, where the pair exchanged hugs and words of encouragement.

"I made sure he was sure, and he's sure -- it's absolutely Alabama," Justin said, wiping away tears.

Justin maintained her opinion that LSU was the best place for Collins on Wednesday, but she added that she would have supported any decision he made.

"I never said I wasn't [going to support him]," she said. "It's not about the colleges, it was all about family. I felt that LSU is a better place -- and I still go by my word -- but he says Tuscaloosa. He said Tuscaloosa is where he's going to shine."

Collins is certainly a shining member of the Tide's 2012 class. The 6-foot, 210-pound safety is the highest-ranked member of an Alabama class that is ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPNU.

"We've had some good ones, and he's right up there with the best of them," said Dutchtown coach Benny Saia. "Selfishly, I would have loved to see him go to LSU, but I will pull for him just like I would for any of our other kids. I know he's going to be successful."

With the amount of turnover on the Tide's defense this offseason, a talent like Collins might have a chance to have early success for Alabama coach Nick Saban.

"I can't wait to step foot on the campus," Collins said. "I've been talking to the coaches nonstop, and I'm ready to start looking at film and the defensive positions I have to learn to be ready to step on the field and play."

The signing ceremony itself lacked all of the pomp and drama that has surrounded Collins' decision. While some members of his family decked themselves out in crimson clothing emblazoned with Alabama's script "A," Collins simply chose a gray sweatshirt that read, "Roll Tide." He didn't bother choosing a team hat or helmet, a gesture that has become a mainstay on national signing day.

"No doubt about it, I didn't want to play no mind tricks or any head games, I just wanted the process to be over with," Collins said.

High-profile signings are nothing new to Saia and Dutchtown. SEC stars like Eric Reid and Eddie Lacy have come out of Geismar in recent seasons. But Saia said the drama surrounding Collins' signing was on another level.

"The process kind of got out of whack a little bit. I thought the limelight should have been on Landon a little bit more than the surrounding stuff," Saia said. "This is the first time I've ever been involved in something like this."