Friday was Decision Day for former Burke High School football standout Fadol Brown. With friends and family gathered in the school’s media center, Brown opened a box, pulled out an Ole Miss cap, smiled and announced he was a Rebel.

If it were only that simple.

The 6-5, 281-pound defensive end’s matriculation to Oxford was certainly circuitous and could have been short-circuited along the way.

Brown was the Class AA lineman of the year his senior season at Burke. He was ready to pledge to South Carolina State on the 2011 National Signing Day. He couldn’t get through the NCAA clearinghouse and ended up at a technical college in Charlotte. He finally signed with Florida International University.

He had nine tackles and 11/2 sacks last fall, but decided to transfer when coach Mario Cristobal was fired after the 2012 season.

Brown then transferred to Itawamba Community College for three weeks before getting his release from FIU.

“I just want to thank God for the opportunity to play SEC football,” said Brown, whose chose the Rebels over Miami, LSU and Tennessee, and had offers from two dozen colleges. “The SEC has grown to be the NFL of college football. I am blessed to go from one of the lower conferences to the top.”

Earl Brown, who coached Fadol Brown in football and basketball, attended the signing ceremony.

“Like I tell all of my players, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Earl Brown said. “It’s been a long road to this point.”

Fadol Brown admitted he wasn’t into football when he arrived at Burke. He wanted to play basketball.

“Let me tell you the story,” coach Brown said. “I told Zola Davis he had an option. I told him, ‘You either play football or there’s no basketball.’ I told Fadol the same thing. Zola had a great college career and played as a wide receiver in the NFL. Hopefully, the same thing will happen to Fadol.”

Fadol Brown said he will redshirt this season and will not play until 2014. He said just about every SEC team offered a scholarship. The noticeable exception was the University of South Carolina.

“I don’t have it circled on the calendar when we play them,” Brown said. “But I’ll put a bull’s eye on the calendar when I get home.”

Brown visited Oxford and liked the family atmosphere, the campus and the staff.

He obviously likes the direction the program is going at Ole Miss. Ole Miss had a top 10 recruiting class in February as coach Hugh Freeze signed arguably the top defensive end (Robert Nkemdiche), top offensive lineman (Laremy Tunsil) and top wide receiver (Antonio Conner) in the country.

“I always had a vision,” he said. “I was able to get through the obstacles. I could count on my friends and family to get me through the hard times.”

That included his mother, Theresa. She knows her son has changed, and that bigger changes are on the way.

“When he gets cramps, I can’t run on the field and give him water and bananas anymore,” she said. “He’s in the big leagues now.”