SMYRNA, Tenn. -- The top prospect in Tennessee is heading west to play college football.
"I'll be attending the University of Southern California," cornerback Jalen Ramsey said before a round of applause at a news conference Monday.
While there are plenty of story lines around Ramsey's decision to commit to USC, one stands out: the ties between the Trojans and the University of Tennessee. Ramsey, No. 57 in the ESPN 150, said former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, who is still vilified by Vols fans after leaving as the school's head coach in 2010, was one of the primary reasons Ramsey is headed west.
"He's a chill person outside of the football field," Ramsey said. "You can definitely get along with him but he's going to push his kids and get the best out of his kids. He's a loving person despite all the rumors you hear in Tennessee with him. I don't feel like any of it is true. I love how he is. I love the man he is. I can't wait to play for him."
Kiffin wasn't the only USC coach with Tennessee ties who was involved in Ramsey's recruitment. Former UT quarterback Tee Martin, who Kiffin hired from Kentucky earlier this year, was the main recruiter for Ramsey.
Ramsey said the relationship with Martin, who also recruited him when he was at Kentucky, was also a factor. Yet it was more than that. Ramsey said he long felt wanted by the Trojans, especially by secondary coach Marvin Sanders.
"Coach Sanders told me all the time that I was the No. 1 corner on his board," the four-star prospect from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy said. "That meant a lot to me, especially coming all the way out from California to Tennessee to get Tennessee's top player. That meant a lot to me. Usually, it doesn't happen like that so I'm very, very grateful to be in that situation."
Ramsey's other strong option was staying close to home -- and it wasn't to play for the Vols.
"It came down to USC and Vanderbilt," Ramsey said. "It was very tough for me. It was a long process. Vanderbilt is a great school. It's like USC in a lot of ways for how prestigious it is, the academics and the networking and things like that. It really came down to my second visit to USC."
During that visit last month, Ramsey said he bonded with several USC commitments. Subsequently, he felt as if he would be comfortable despite the distance from home.
UT coaches and fans shouldn't feel as if they lost Ramsey. They were barely in the running.
"They were an in-state school," Ramsey said when asked about UT. "They're going to keep recruiting me. They told me they were going to keep recruiting me. I'm just comfortable with USC. Some of these other schools I like more than Tennessee right now. They were in the top seven on the list but they were sort of on the back burner."
Ramsey's mother, Margie, said the in-state pressure, especially involving Kiffin, was a bit hard to endure at times.
"They look at a four-star athlete and just assume because he's from Tennessee that he's just going to attend Tennessee. Now, he likes Tennessee. That was one of his choices," she said. "It's a lot of pressure when you have an in-state school but it's nothing he can't handle. There's been some things said. We as adults, my husband and I, we can take some things.
"(Jalen) looks at the blogs and the things that are written and he laughs it off. I'm glad for that, that it doesn't affect him, because that would bother me."
Ramsey's father, Lamont, said fandom never entered the equation. He said his son grew up rooting for ACC schools primarily because he was a fan of Miami and former star player Devin Hester.
"He handled it well," the elder Ramsey said. "He was going back and forth between a couple of schools in his head. With two or three schools, he was back and forth, back and forth. He didn't come to this decision easy. It was a hard decision for him. He just tried to narrow it down."
Ramsey's older brother, Jamal Ramsey, said he never doubted his brother would reach this point. The younger Ramsey was always competing with older competition, be it his brother or older cousins. Even then, a fire was always there.
"More than anything I think it's his attitude," Jamal Ramsey said when asked what stood out with his younger brother. "He refuses to lose point blank. He's never really lost before. If he does, he's mad."
USC still has some recruiting to do. Lamont Ramsey said his son won't shut down the recruiting process just because he's committed to the Trojans.
"I think he will probably still look around a little bit," Lamont Ramsey said. "He's always said he wants to take his visits. How we look at it is he's earned the right to do that. If he wants to take them and (other schools are) willing to let him come, we're open to it."
That shouldn't be a problem with Kiffin and USC. They typically allow commitments to take other official visits.