TAMPA — Long before supporters filled Plant's gym anticipating Orson Charles' college announcement Friday afternoon, before his cell phone began ringing ad nauseam, before every Facebook login was greeted with 30 messages from complete strangers, and even before he caught his first pass in a Panthers uniform, Orson Charles felt there was just something right about Georgia.
Last spring, when Charles and Plant teammate Aaron Murray first stepped on the Athens campus together, Charles turned to Murray with a big smile.
"If you commit, I commit," Charles said.
Charles was only half serious at the time, but that became reality Friday when Plant's star wide receiver unbuttoned his light gray suit jacket, revealed a black Bulldogs jersey and announced he was headed to Georgia. He chose the Bulldogs over USC. Tennessee was also a finalist and he made official visits to Florida and Florida State.
In Athens, Charles will be reunited with Murray, the quarterback he teamed with to win a Class 4A state title, but the coveted 6-foot-3, 220-pounder's decision didn't come without anguish.
"He really was an undecided guy up until last night," Plant coach Robert Weiner said. "Maybe even this morning he got up not being sure."
Charles' official visits came late — Plant's championship season and playing in the U.S. Army All-American game delayed them — forcing him on a whirlwind tour of five trips that finished long after signing day.
When Charles came back from each trip, he found himself always comparing the school to Georgia — the coaches, the campus, the program that was one of the first to offer him a scholarship last February.
But with USC being his final trip, the Trojans were fresh in his mind.
"They made him think," his mother, Naseline, said. "But it was like the song, Georgia was always on his mind."
Weiner told him to make sure the decision was his alone. Famous Plant father Tony Dungy advised him to go to a school he could picture himself at if football wasn't in the picture. People from his church pointed him to the Bible and the book of Proverbs.
And Friday afternoon, he finally felt relief. As the crowd flooded out, Weiner handed him his cell phone. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt was on the other line, ready to close the book on his recruiting class with an exclamation point.
"I learned to take your time," Charles said. "I learned to go with what fits for you, not what fits for everyone else. You're the one waking up at 4 a.m. for practice or workouts, so you have to go with what fits you."