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Updated: January 26th, 2012 8:34pm
Star Hopkins wide receiver Andre McDonald says 'I'm a Gopher'

Star Hopkins wide receiver Andre McDonald says 'I'm a Gopher'

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- After several months of back-and-forth reports, coveted Hopkins high school wide receiver, and top in-state recruit Andre McDonald told 1500 ESPN on Thursday he has verbally committed to play for coach Jerry Kill and the Gophers next season.

With his decision narrowed down to UCLA, Vanderbilt and the "U", the 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver from Plymouth, Minn., ultimately chose to stick with his hometown team.

"I feel way too comfortable here to go elsewhere," McDonald said. "The coaches just make me feel important ... I just couldn't picture myself anywhere else."

Despite making a soft-commitment to the "U" nearly a year ago, McDonald opted out in September in favor of an offer from Vanderbilt. But when Commodores receivers coach Chris Beatty departed to fill a vacancy on Illinois' staff last December, McDonald once again reopened his options.

The Gophers didn't stop their pursuit, even with McDonald's intentions seemingly set on going out of state. Kill and his staff kept in continuous contact with the young recruit and eventually developed a strong relationship.

It was those relationships that won McDonald over.

He said the conversations he had with the "U" coaches and players went beyond football, connecting with him on a personal and family level -- a trait he did not find in the other programs he visited.

"They stuck with me through everything," McDonald said. "It just showed me that everything I needed was here (in Minnesota). I guess I needed to go elsewhere to figure that out."

Kill, receivers coach Pat Poore and several other members of the team's staff visited McDonald at his home on Wednesday, where he told them he had made up his mind to join the Gophers this fall.

McDonald is the latest addition to a youthful, but increasingly talented "U" receiving corps, which includes Devin Crawford-Tuft and Marcus Jones -- both of whom made notable impacts as freshman last season.

The departure of graduated senior Da'Jon McKnight -- the Gophers' primary receiving threat in 2011 -- means there is a wide-open competition to fill the void.

"(The coaches) were saying they really need a vertical threat and that is where they see me doing well," McDonald said. "I'm going to do everything I can to get a starting spot. If that doesn't happen, I'm going to keep fighting for it."

McDonald's decision is not official until he signs a binding letter of intent on National Signing Day on Feb. 1, but he says he is not wavering, stating firmly "I'm a Gopher."

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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