JuCo DT Sets Official Visit

Gilbert Pena has scheduled an official visit to North Carolina.

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive tackle from Brooklyn (N.Y.) ASA will be in Chapel Hill for UNC's Homecoming weekend of Oct. 30, which includes UNC's game against William & Mary.

"They just really wanted to get me down to visit," Pena said. "I'm definitely interested in the school. I would love to be a part of the team. I want to get a feel for the environment and meet the players and coaches. So I felt like [the official visit] would be the best way to go about it."

Pena also has an official visit scheduled with Mississippi for the weekend of Dec. 4.

"I want to compare and contrast to see where I want to be at," Pena said.

Pena scheduled the official visit with Art Kaufman last week, during the first conversation the two have had.

"He was telling me ‘What's a good linebacker without good defensive linemen in front of them?'" Pena said. "And he was telling me he watched my film and he likes the way I get off the ball and I'm explosive. He was telling me that he thinks there will definitely be a spot for me there."

The interest from UNC has apparently resulted in a scholarship offer.

"From what I'm hearing from my coaches, I believe [UNC has offered me]," Pena said. "I'm not 100-percent sure – I'm 95-percent sure it's official. Until I get the phone call from them telling me that it has happened or I get the official letter, then I'll know."

Miami (Ohio) and Mississippi have also offered Pena.

ASA's fall semester doesn't end until Jan. 30, which would prevent Pena from enrolling at most four-year universities, including UNC, in the spring semester. However, the classes Pena is taking will allow him to take final exams early enough to allow him to complete the courses and graduate in time to enroll early when needed.

"A lot of schools are looking for [a JuCo] to play in spring ball," Pena said. "That would be really beneficial for me to do."

Pena is unsure when he'll make a verbal commitment. However, he plans to at least take both of his scheduled official visits before deciding.

"One thing's for sure that I do know is education is the No. 1 thing for me," Pena said. "I don't believe anyone in my family has a degree. So it would mean a lot to my family and myself [if I earn a degree]. So education is key.

"And where I fit in at as a player on the team [is important]. I want to play. I don't want to sit out or red-shirt."

If needed, Pena has a red-shirt available, plus two years of eligibility.

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 to make up classes. After a four-year hiatus from school and football, Pena decided to enroll at ASA and play for their football team, which started up in 2009.

In ASA's inaugural season, Pena recorded 50 tackles, six sacks, and four forced fumbles and the team went 6-3.

Thus far this season, ASA is 5-2. Through six games (the final stats haven't been compiled), Pena has collected 25 total tackles, including three sacks.

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