Up Close: Ronnie McGill, Part II

Had the 17-year old Ronnie McGill not been offered the opportunity to enter UNC in January, he may have waited until the fall and gone to either Wake Forest or Vanderbilt.

Despite being named MVP of the 2002 North-South All-Star Game in Myrtle Beach, rushing for 119 yards and three touchdowns; the four-year starter at Clover (S.C.) was recruited mildly to say the least.

Now just 18, he is already a fan favorite following an impressive debut in Saturday's Spring Game at Carolina, while many of his fellow 2003 signees are still finishing high school.

McGill is using his early enrollment to his advantage both academically and athletically.

"Compared to high school, everybody on the defense is fast," McGill said. "You've got to really focus and read your keys and hopefully break the big run."

McGill's early showing is adding even more luster to the Tar Heels most recent recruiting class.

"When I came here on my first official visit, all the players liked me and I liked this place," he said. "It seemed like the school was really interested in me, so I looked at all of that. It looked like a good opportunity for me to get into school early, workout, and get everything under my belt before the season started so I wouldn't have to worry about everything at once.

When McGill arrived home from the UNC campus, he called the coaches at Wake Forest and Vanderbilt and told them he wouldn't be making his other two scheduled trips.

"When I came here, I just fell in love with it and everything fell into place," McGill said.

McGill is the youngest of three kids, from a household that didn't always have a lot of extras. Yet the children, of whom all went to college, were instilled with a scholastic mindset.

Since junior high, McGill was passing high school level courses with As and Bs; thus he was ready to graduate in the fall of 2002.

"I talked to the principal and he said, if North Carolina would let me go ahead and come in, he would let me go," McGill said.

At Clover, McGill played safety for three years and played linebacker along with running back as a senior. He led the Blue Eagles to their first regional championship since 1977.

"He's just blessed with God-given talent," Clover head coach Marty Woolbright said. "He ran the option for us at quarterback as a junior. This year we had a quarterback come in and we moved him to fullback, which is really like a tailback in our offense."

McGill rushed for 1,827 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior. He also caught four touchdown passes, threw a pair of scoring tosses and scored six touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns.

A mainstay on the defensive side of the ball throughout his prep career, McGill finished with 350 total tackles.

"He just got better every week," Woolbright said.

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