As he watched and left Georgia's football practice a few weeks ago, John Atkins slowly came to realize he was going to be a Bulldog.
On Friday, the Thomson senior, considered a three-star recruit by Rivals.com and Scout.com, committed to the University of Georgia.
"It made me feel like it's home," said Atkins, who was a first-team All-Region selection last season.
The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder had narrowed his choices down to Georgia, Georgia Tech and Auburn, but Atkins immediately picked up the red Georgia hat when it was time to make his selection public by taking one of the hats on the table in front of him at the Thomson High School media center.
With some teammates, coaches, family and others watching, Atkins said he was happy to commit early so he can focus on football and his senior year.
At the next level, Atkins figures to be at nose guard in the Bulldogs' 3-4 defensive scheme. But former Thomson defensive coordinator John Barnett said Atkins could have a future on offense.
Atkins' pick came as his mother, Annette, sister, Alicia, and aunt, Carolyn, sat next to him.
Though Atkins' mother is looking forward to attending as many Georgia games as she can, she is hoping the education there sets up Atkins for a good future if football doesn't work out.
She also said Georgia Tech had sent the most letters and gave the most attention out of the interested schools. She said she didn't know where her son was planning on going until Friday.
Atkins' current head coach, Milan Turner, said Atkins had been leaning toward Georgia for a couple weeks. Turner said Atkins told him he made his decision early last week, and he's looking forward to seeing Atkins continue to grow with his potential.
"We're just excited for him," Turner said. "He had to do a lot of soul-searching to find a place where he'd be happy."
Atkins said he expects to play nose guard, but will welcome any assignment he's given. He has played on both offense and defense for Thomson.
Atkins said he had full-scholarship offers from nine schools. In the end, he chose the school that felt most like home.
Among the Thomson High School staff on hand to congratulate Atkins was coach and former NFL player Eddie Lee Ivery, who played for Thomson, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Green Bay Packers.
"He just said wherever I want to go, he would be a fan," Atkins said. "All the coaches, they said the same."
Garth Snow of The McDuffie Mirror contributed to this report.