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December 27, 2011
Some will say it's a case of the rich getting richer.
But Gunner Kiel, the top-ranked quarterback in the Class of 2012, calls his decision to head to LSU - the nation's current top-ranked team - just the best fit for him.
"My family, teammates and coaches all had my back 100 percent and I feel that God had a plan for me," he told Rivals.com Wednesday afternoon. "I'm ready to start my journey down to LSU now."
Kiel, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, is a five-star player and the No. 18 ranked overall recruit. As a senior he threw for 2,523 yards and 28 touchdowns, leading Columbus (Ind.) East High to the state semifinals.
He stunned the recruiting world in July, when he announced he was headed to in-state Indiana - a school known for basketball but not football. The choice, however, offered him a chance to play with his older brother, Dusty, who started several games at quarterback for the Hoosiers this season.
In the fall, however, Kiel realized the choice may not have been the best pick. In October, he re-opened his recruitment and started looking at other schools. He spent the next few months finishing out his senior high school football season and completing his high school academic requirements for early graduation.
He then embarked on a whirlwind month of recruiting visits, phone calls and decisions.
"At times it got hard, but I surrounded myself with great people," Kiel said.
Kiel visited LSU the weekend of Nov. 25 to take in its home contest against Arkansas, then returned a week later for his official visit. It occurred to him early in the process that Baton Rouge was a place he could spend the next four years.
"From the first time I went down there to the last time I talked to Coach [Les] Miles and Coach [Steve] Kragthorpe I just had a really good feeling about it," Kiel said. "I think everything was a good fit and Baton Rouge is a special place. The coaches are nice, humble people who want to get the job done and the [LSU players] were outgoing and respectful. They introduced themselves to me right when I got there.
"When I went down there and met all the guys I felt it was perfect fit for me. I felt it was the right time to pull the trigger and I'm very happy with my decision."
Kiel informed LSU coaches last Friday. He waited until Tuesday to announce the decision publicly to give him time to inform coaches at Notre Dame and Vanderbilt - his other two finalists - of his choice.
"Notre Dame and Vanderbilt both had great coaching staffs," Kiel said. "What really stood out about Notre Dame and Vanderbilt was the educations. It was really hard to tell those guys, 'No,' but I was very blessed to have the interest from them and get to know them."
Kiel has not gone in-depth with the LSU coaches about the offense and their expectations of him early in his career, but that will be sorted out shortly. The Indiana native is set to enroll at LSU next month and will be able to participate in spring practices with the Tigers.
"I'm just going to go in, try my best, work hard and compete," Kiel said. "Anywhere you go you have to compete, so I am going to try to learn the playbook as fast as possible, get as many reps as possible and do my best."
Prior to starting classes at LSU, Kiel will participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, on Jan. 7.
Two days later, he'll watch his future team take on Alabama in the BCS national title game. It's the second time in five years that LSU has advanced to the game (it won it in 2007). And with Kiel joining an already top-flight recruiting class, LSU's chances of reaching the game again improved greatly.