Four years ago, Nature Coast offensive lineman Christian Pellage weighed 225 pounds. He was raw. His technique was not sound.
"I didn't really know what I was doing," he said.
Since then, Pellage has grown in size (6 feet 7, 290) and stature. On Friday, he was the big man on campus as he had the undivided attention of classmates and recruiting aficionados who were anxiously awaiting where he would commit to play college football.
Pellage did not let the suspense linger. Pellage thanked everyone before standing up and putting on a South Carolina hat in front of about 100 family members, friends and reporters in the school's gymnasium.
Pellage, a three-star recruit, picked the Gamecocks over an impressive list of more than two dozen offers from Division I schools. Though he didn't have a set list of finalists, he said he picked South Carolina over Alabama, Florida and Miami.
Pellage visited South Carolina during his spring break and went to camp there July 22-23, his last camp of the summer.
"It just came down to a feeling I got when I was there," he said.
He was listed as the 13th best player in the Tampa Bay Times' HomeTeam 100 this summer. Rivals and 247Sports each have him ranked among the top 60 in the 2015 class at his position.
"It's amazing to see how far Christian has come," said his mother, Bonnie Pellage. "He got his first offer last year, and we were kind of taken aback and honored to see so many schools offered him after that. He's handled it all very well. Of all the schools, South Carolina just felt like home to him."
He is Nature Coast's third Division I-A recruit in as many years, joining defensive lineman Rohan Blackwood (USF) and running back Matt Breida (Georgia Southern).
Part of the reason Pellage decided now was so he could concentrate on his senior season.
"I wanted to do something big, and felt like having it at the school would be the best place," Pellage said. "I was a little nervous. But it felt good, and now I can focus on my team and try to get us to the playoffs."
The Sharks were 4-6 last season and have a new coach, Justin Worden.
"It was nice to get someone like Christian to work with coming here," Worden said. "He's so athletically gifted. He can move so well laterally. It's tough to find that kind of movement in a guy so big."