Washington CNN —  

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday morning, lending some important southern credentials to the Republican candidate as he looks to build off a strong debate performance.

Bentley and Kasich exchanged footballs Monday at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, shortly before addressing supporters. Kasich gave Bentley an Ohio State University ball signed by head football coach Urban Meyer. And Bentley gave him a ball signed by University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.

Kasich touted his ability, now, to play in the so-called SEC primary.

“It sends a signal for the South. I’m heading from here to South Carolina and the first thing I’m gonna tell them is ‘Hey, guess what? I was just endorsed for President of the United States by the governor of Alabama,’” Kasich said. “It makes a big difference. So think of us as the engine that could.”

The endorsement adds to some momentum for Kasich, who picked up the support of veteran New Hampshire Republican Tom Rath last week. As of last week, Kasich was running neck-and-neck with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in New Hampshire, although both men are still polling well behind decisive frontrunner Donald Trump.