FLORENCE — After months of deliberating, Florence’s Erroll Thompson was ready to commit.

Dressed in a plaid button-up shirt in coach J.B. Wallace’s office, the 6-foot-2, 255-pound senior donned a Mississippi State cap to make his college destination known.

Thompson, an ESPN.com four-star inside linebacker, played defense for the first time last season, but still finished with 77 tackles, a team-high 29 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and one forced fumble to help the Falcons reach the Class 6A semifinals.

Thompson chose Mississippi State over finalists Alabama, Michigan, Louisville and Kentucky. Thompson noted that Alabama was second.

“I felt at home when I went down there,” Thompson said. “I felt like Mississippi State had the best interest in me. I loved everything about the campus and the football program.”

Thompson will join a Mississippi State team that won 10 games last year and played in the Orange Bowl. The Bulldogs’ defense finished 23rd in scoring defense and held four opponents to 10 points or fewer.

Only four defensive starters return to Mississippi State, which could open an opportunity for Thompson to see early playing time.

“It factored in a lot for my decision,” Thompson said. “That’s one thing I looked at the most, really. Playing time means a lot to me.”

He said he knew Mississippi State was the school for him last month, but waited to make sure everything felt right. He added that committing before the season begins would allow him to clear his mind and focus solely on helping Florence win as many games as possible.

“I sat down and talked to myself and God and felt like that was the place for me to go,” Thompson said. “…I can focus more on winning a state championship than this recruiting thing.”

Coach J.B. Wallace said Thompson has developed into a playmaker for Florence and expects that to continue at Mississippi State.

“He’s come a long way,” Wallace. “He was a kid that didn’t really know the first thing about how we play at Florence. We had a great supporting cast around him last year, so we put him in a situation where he could excel and it worked out.”

John McWilliams can be reached at 256-740-5730 or john.mcwilliams@TimesDaily.com. Follow on Twitter@TD_JMcWilliams.

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