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January 14, 2004It has been anticipated for months, but it is finally official. Keith Rivers is going back to Southern California. Rivers grew up a Trojan, and he will play his football with the Men of Troy at Southern Cal.
"I am making my official commitment to USC," Rivers said. "I took another visit so I could compare it to USC, and it really gave me something to think about. Now, I am done with visits, and I know that USC is the place to me."
After months of battling with the decision, Rivers felt that he had enough information to really finalize his decision publicly. There is a sense of relief for the Lake Mary (Fla.) native, but even more overwhelming is the excitement at playing for his long time favorite.
"I am really excited. They made me really comfortable out there on my visit. I got to hang out with (my host) Alex Holmes, and the coaches. It really showed me that USC is the place for me."
Rivers said that the decision to attend USC had more to do with fitting in with Californians than it did with dreams of the coliseum.
"The tradition at USC was really important, but really, I think that fitting in was the biggest factor. More than anything, I am a California guy. I saw that on my visit."
Rivers got a taste of Trojan football on his visit that he won't soon forget. Along with learning about being a Trojan teammate, he learned about being a Trojan player.
"During my visit, they took us to the Coliseum and let us come out of the tunnel with 'Salute to Troy' playing and out name on the big screen. I got so excited because I though about a great history they have there. Running out of that tunnel with the fight song playing is what college football is all about."
Another issue that USC had to clear up on Rivers' visit was the situation with the void left by departed linebacker coach Mike Holt. The five-star linebacker has has a 6-foot-3 frame and massive potential. He had to be assured that he would get the same exceptional coaching that linebackers have come to expect out of USC.
"They really made me feel comfortable with the situation with coach Holt leaving. Coach Carroll isn't leaving, and I know that he will hire someone just as good. It is coach Carroll's system."
"I know that whoever the linebacker coach is, I will be able to fulfill my highest potential within the system that coach Carroll has. They have all the things I need to be a successful athlete and a good person. The academics are top notch there, and I can't wait to get there and start developing."
Even after a visit that seemingly met all his needs and made his decision easy, Rivers knew that he had a final obligation to himself.
"I wanted to take another visit," Rivers said. "I needed something to compare USC to. So, I decided to wait to visit Florida before I committed. I mean, I knew in my heart that USC was the place for me, but if times get tough at USC, I want to be able to look back and know that I made the right decision."
"My coach encouraged me to take at least one other visit before committing, and I am thankful. I had a great time at Florida, and it really made me think. I thought I would come back and commit immediately to USC, but it made me re-evaluate everything."
Despite the last ditch effort, USC held on to Rivers. Rivers has been doing a little recruiting of his own in San Antonio for the US Army All-American game.
"Like I say, I had a pretty good idea about where I wanted to go. Jeff (Byers) and I were talking to some of the recruits who were listing USC. We talked to Dwayne Jarrett and Cameron Colvin, and other guys too."
"I want all the other recruits to come with me. I think USC is the best place in the world, and I want them to all be Trojans too."
Rivers and the horde of great recruits accompanying him to USC will be trying to carry on a proud tradition that hoisted a national championship to start 2004. Rivers himself is looking to carry on a proud tradition, that is, if the tradition will let him.
"There is a whole ordeal that I will have to go through to get No. 55. I have to talk to coach Carroll about it again. He has to talk to all the past fifty-fives and ask them if it is okay with them. I like all of this. It is a great tradition, and I am honored to be under consideration."
"Coach Carroll was pretty sure that I would get to wear the number."
Rivers is ready to wake up the tradition of fifty-five for USC. For the rest of the Pac 10, the next four years will be like a nightmare from which they can't wake up.