UNC Visit Sets Bar for Pena

Gilbert Pena took his first official trip over the weekend when he traveled to North Carolina.

"It was an amazing visit," Pena said. "I got to meet the players and the coaches and had a really good time. UNC set the bar real high with the visit. I had a lot of fun out there. There were a lot of things to do. I met a lot of people.

"At the end of the day, I want to be able to give everybody an equal opportunity to show what they could offer me. I think that my best choice would be to go with the program that I feel will [offer me the most]. I really want to go on other visits to experience them and see what other schools have to offer."

Pena, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive tackle from Brooklyn (N.Y.) ASA JC, has one other official visit scheduled – Mississippi on Dec. 4. However, Oklahoma, Rutgers, and South Florida have expressed interest and could be official visit destinations.

Since he will sign with a school during the junior college signing period in mid-December, Pena plans to make his collegiate decision shortly after his Mississippi visit. Thus, any other official trips will have to take place prior to that weekend.

"You could say [UNC] is up there, as far as a favorite, because I've been there and I think it's a good program to be in," Pena said. "As soon as I take another visit, I'll be able to tell the difference between the two."

Pena arrived in Chapel Hill on Friday morning and stayed until Sunday morning.

"I'm going to tell you right now: I got fed like a king," Pena said. "We ate a lot [during the weekend] and I got to interact with the players a lot."

On Friday night, true freshman offensive lineman T.J. Leifheit served as Pena's host.

"[Leifheit] was able to let me know what was good about the program," Pena said.

Junior defensive lineman Quinton Coples was Pena's host the rest of his stay.

"I had a good time with [Coples]," Pena said. "He let me know how the defense works and how I could help if I came down to the team."

A major portion of Pena's visit was spent in Kenan Stadium watching UNC's 21-17 victory over William and Mary.

"The game was amazing, because the fans were awesome there," Pena said. "[The fans] are really for North Carolina – I think they bleed blue.

"We went down [to the field], during the pre-game session. Just being on the sidelines makes you just a little more hungrier to be D1 – you want to play [and] you want to be out there."

Pena's visit also included individual meetings with UNC assistant coaches Art Kaufman, his primary recruiter, and Charlie Coiner.

"The main focus was they were just letting me know how I could fit into the defense, and I would be a big support to the team, and bring a little bit of age and maturity to the team, as well," Pena said.

Pena, who has two years of eligibility plus a red-shirt season, also met individually with Butch Davis.

"Coach Davis was just concerned with my past and what I went through and how I made it to where I'm at now," Pena said. "And also he was letting me know pretty much the same thing that Coach Kaufman and Coach Coiner were telling me, like how they would like me to be there and how I could make a big difference in the middle."

Gilbert Pena Profile

Inside Carolina Top Stories