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Friday, January 11, 2013
Positive feelings still strong for Claiborne

By Sam Khan Jr.

When Port Allen (La.) High School linebacker Darian Claiborne committed to Texas A&M in July 2012, the Aggies were still an unknown when it came to the Southeastern Conference.

Speculation ran rampant on how the former Big 12 team would fare in the SEC, but Claiborne had a feeling the Aggies were headed for good things.

Much has changed since then. The Aggies went 11-2, crushed Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, were the only team to defeat BCS champion Alabama and had the Heisman Trophy winner, redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Claiborne, who will take his official visit to Texas A&M beginning today, said the positive feelings still remain.

"I still feel the same way I felt in the summer when I made my decision," Claiborne said. "Nothing's changed. They did what I expected them to do. Well, I didn't expect them to go completely off like that, but I knew they were going to come in the SEC strong and they did that. They really made a statement and made me want to go there even more."

The feeling is strong enough to fend off overtures from other programs. TCU reached out to Claiborne in recent weeks, making an in-home visit in an effort to get the 6-foot-1, 220-pound three-star linebacker up to Fort Worth, Texas, for an official visit. Claiborne thought about it briefly, but decided against it because of what he has waiting for him at Texas A&M.

"They just want me to come up there at least for an official visit," Claiborne said. "They really wanted me to. I was going to go but I changed my mind....I'm not going to bring that much drama. We already have a big class and I'm not trying to lose my spot."

Plus, Claiborne has a strong relationship with Texas A&M linebackers coach Matt Wallerstedt, who recruited him. He likened it to the bond he has with his high school coach at Port Allen. Guy Blanchard. In addition to the Aggies' SEC membership and proximity to his home state, that was one of the biggest reasons Claiborne originally chose the Aggies.

"Me and Coach Wallerstedt just bonded," Claiborne said. "We have a bond like me and my head high school coach have a bond. I need that connection away from home too and he just filled that spot."

And though the incoming class at linebacker is large, with seven linebackers joining the program, Claiborne has no concerns.

"I'm going to go compete just like they're going to go compete and may the best man win," Claiborne said. "I'm trying to do whatever's good for A&M and wherever coach sees me playing and wherever I can help contribute, that's what I'm going to do."

Claiborne is ready to get his official visit kicked off.

"I'm ecstatic," Claiborne said. "I'm ready to go up there. I haven't seen anything except a game. I need to get down there and see how everything is. I'm just ready."