UNC Interested in Sleeper DT

North Carolina is among the schools that have expressed interest in Gilbert Pena, a JuCo defensive tackle from Brooklyn (N.Y.) ASA.

"My coach told had told me they're interested in me and he told me that they wanted some information and to shoot down some stuff to them," Pena said.

Pena, a 6-foot-4, 310-pounder, is also hearing from Florida International, Florida State, Indiana, Miami, New Mexico, Oregon, and West Virginia.

"I think everybody is in the stage where they're trying to get my transcripts," Pena said. "Nobody has offered, yet."

Roughly three weeks ago, UNC first contacted ASA coaches regarding Pena. After playing phone tag, Pena finally spoke to a UNC coach over the phone last week.

"He told me he was interested and he heard a lot about me and wanted to get some game film on me," Pena said. "And also, he asked for my transcript to make sure my grades are good over here."

Pena will graduate from ASA in January and have two years of eligibility remaining, plus a red-shirt season.

"[The UNC coach and I] did discuss when I would be graduating from ASA," Pena said. "I told him I would graduate towards the end of January. He was telling me if I wanted to start [spring] practice, I had to be there the second week of January. I guess that would determine if they wanted me to be there right away and try to get going."

Pena says his interest level in UNC is "high."

"That's a great program, a great school, [and] a great coach over there," Pena said. "I'm really eager to make a trip down there to see what's going on. I want to get to know the coaches, meet the players, [and] see what the environment is. It's not too far from home."

Pena readily admits that the recruiting process is new to him and a lot is up-in-the-air.

"[Schools] are all pretty much on the same level with asking for transcripts," Pena said. "But Oregon is sticking out the most to me, because I get emails from them every now and then."

Pena graduated from Yonkers (N.Y.) Saunders Trades and Technical High School in 2005, after doing an extra year at Yonkers (N.Y.) Roosevelt High School.

"My ninth grade year, I messed up," Pena said. "So my senior year, I had to pick up classes. Because [Saunders] is a technical school, it was hard for me to take on my English and my social studies classes with my major."

Following graduation, Pena took a four-year hiatus from school and football.

"Coming out of high school, I had a tough situation, because my mom was diagnosed with cancer," Pena said. "… Out of high school, I got plenty of letters from schools, but I didn't know much about it. So I just ended up working for my mom and helping her while she was sick."

A friend, who was playing football at Lincoln University (Pa.), told Pena that ASA was starting up a football program.

"I just decided that I wanted to play football again [and] that this was my passion," Pena said. "I'm back here and nothing but good things have been happening to me, my team, [and] I'm loving it."

ASA is 3-1 thus far in 2010, and Pena has 19 tackles and 2 sacks. Last season, Pena recorded 50 tackles, six sacks, and four forced fumbles for ASA, which went 6-3 during its inaugural season.

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