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December 9, 2010

Sun Devils pick up star Florida linebacker

Gionni Paul, a 6-foot-0, 227 pound linebacker at Kathleen High School in talent-rich Lakeland, Fla., committed to Arizona State Thursday over offers from Auburn, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas Tech and others.

With Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson and lead recruiter Bryce Erickson on an in-home visit, Paul decided to end his recruitment.

"I've never been so excited in my life," Paul said. "I'm a flipper. I feel like doing a hundred back flips right now, oh my god.

"ASU, that's just where I want to go. Coach Erickson is a legend down here. I just watched 'The U' on ESPN (30 for 30). He's won national championships, he coached (former Kathleen HS and current NFL star linebacker) Ray Lewis, now he's coaching Vontaze Burfict. What more can you ask for?"

Paul, who said he had 155 tackles, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and numerous sacks, was scheduled to take an official visit to Texas Tech beginning Friday, but said he will not go.

"Once you make a commitment, to me, that's it. I'm a man of my word, a commitment is a commitment so recruiting is done, I'm going to ASU, no more trips, nothing," Paul said. "I'm just going to focus on playing basketball and school and that's it."

The Sun Devils emerged as a leader for Paul, the No. 20 outside linebacker prospect nationally and No. 69 overall recruit in Florida, when he visited Tempe for an official visit with several teammates in the final weekend of October.

"Vontaze was my mentor and he just told me all about it out there, what I had to look forward to if I go there," Paul said. "He was great and so were a lot of other guys. I liked the players a lot and just bonded with them and the coaches."

Even though he had many options to choose from, including 2011 BCS Championship Game participant Auburn, Paul said he felt something special was waiting for him at ASU.

"Arizona, it's nothing like it is out here and I loved it," Paul said. "My family, they all support me. It's far away but I think that's good for me. They have everything I need to be successful there and I just can't wait to get out there and play."

Paul said the ASU staff is recruiting him to play outside linebacker or possibly even safety. He said he's not concerned where he ends up.

"They just have been telling me to get ready to come in and run around and hit some people," Paul said. "That's what I do best. I know they have a lot of good athletes on defense. I've been watching. The games come on late at night and you can see. I think they are going to be a major force in the next few years.

"I just want to tell everybody in the Pac-12, ASU's coming."


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