CINCINNATI – Five-star St. Xavier linebacker Justin Hilliard picked Ohio State Wednesday in a recruiting battle with the likes of Notre Dame, Alabama and Michigan.
When it was all said and done, the No. 1-rated outside linebacker in the class of 2015 said the Buckeyes were his first choice all along.
"I've always been an Ohio State fan. It was an easy choice for me. My room is decorated in Ohio State gear," the senior-to-be said on an ESPN webcast.
Making his announcement at St. X, Hilliard was seated at a table with his parents in front of a crowd of teammates, family and friends. The room erupted in cheers.
VIDEO: Watch Justin Hilliard highlights at the bottom of this story
Hilliard said he weighed three factors in his choice:
"Where am I going to get a great business degree? Where will I be most comfortable? And where am I going to have the best chance of winning a national championship?"
He said "comfortability" set Ohio State apart from his other top five and he had already developed "a great relationship with players and coaches" in Columbus.
Hilliard had given an indication that he might be going to Ohio State in a package deal with a recruiting buddy, five-star defensive end Jashon Cornell of St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall.
Cornell, the No. 5-rated DE, also committed to Ohio State Wednesday.
ESPN ranks Hilliard (6-2, 230) as the No. 13 player in the 2015 class and Cornell No. 16.
Ohio State was not ranked in the top 10 recruiting classes before Wednesday, but Hilliard and Cornell moved Urban Meyer's class up 17 spots to No. 6 in the new ESPN class ranking.
Hilliard and Cornell both said they hoped to help recruit other top players to Ohio State.
Players' decisions are not final until they sign, beginning Feb. 4, 2015.
Iowa was a considered a long-shot for Hilliard because his brother, CJ, a running back, is going there this fall.
And who's a better recruiter than your big brother?
Five-star LB Justin Hilliard at Iowa to see his brother CJ off: pic.twitter.com/tfuVjnNgGV— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) June 14, 2014
No one was counting out Notre Dame, Michigan or Alabama, either. Hilliard named those schools as his final five choices last month.
Announcing my decision July 2nd at St. Xavier High School (Time has not been set) pic.twitter.com/ZPeIdT2MBI— Justin Hilliard (@JHilliard47) June 22, 2014
Fans and other recruits went to Hilliard's Twitter page to make a case for their schools.
Danny Clark, a QB from Massillon who has committed to Ohio State, sent this:
More from fans:
@JHilliard47 hey man I know you'd love rocking these every Saturday for years to come. 🍀🍀🍀 pic.twitter.com/tnFmT8ZXZN
— St. Patrick (@ActualyRealPWig) July 2, 2014
Then there was this from Braxton Neal, a Lakota West wide receiver who committed to UC to last week: