Jones Spends Time with UNC Staff

Nazair Jones has visited North Carolina a few times in the past, including the football game against Virginia last fall. A visit on Wednesday, though, was the Roanoke Rapids (N.C.) defensive lineman's first to UNC with Larry Fedora as head coach.

"Everybody seems cool and like a people-person – especially Coach [Deke] Adams and Coach Fedora," Jones said. "I was with [Adams and Fedora] most of the time. They're real cool guys and down-to-earth."

"A lot of [the conversation] was about my health, how I was getting better, and how I was doing."

An illness plagued Jones since November, forcing him to be hospitalized for a week and causing the normally 250-pounder to lose nearly 40 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame.

"Basically, took a bad fall before the season started and didn't check into like I was supposed to," Jones said. "And then I tried to come back too fast and it just came back on me."

Jones has been high on UNC's recruiting board but the illness prevented the coaching staff from offering him a scholarship. His condition has hampered his recruitment with several other schools, as well.

"A lot of guys, they were telling me that they were going to wait it out to make sure I could play," Jones said. "I was heading into the off-season with a bright future. A lot of guys were talking to me and a lot of guys were ready to offer. When I went down, that wasn't good for me at all."

South Carolina is the only school that has offered Jones.

During Wednesday's visit, Jones discussed the status of a possible UNC offer with Randy Jordan, his primary recruiter.

"They just want to see if I'm going to be well coming off the injury and all," Jones said. "They should offer me very soon – at least I hope so."

Jones will return to Chapel Hill on Friday for a checkup at UNC hospitals. Afterwards, he'll stop by the Tar Heels' football office.

"Coach Jordan was telling me that most of the [players] will be leaving for spring break and all," Jones said. "I might miss some of the [players], but I want my mom to meet the coaches so she could get to know them."

In spite of the adversity he has faced, Jones has been able to formulate a top three schools list. All three schools – UNC, Ohio State, and South Carolina – have a Tar Heel connection.

"At South Carolina, I like the coaching staff a lot, because Joe Robinson was my recruiter when he was at North Carolina," Jones said. "But unfortunately, he lost his job and got a new job at South Carolina. I'm real close to him and he's done a lot for me, so it would be nice to repay him by joining his team. I've attended a game there and see some games on TV, but I don't know a lot about them.

"I grew up a North Carolina fan and I grew up in North Carolina, so that's all you really hear about – especially in Roanoke Rapids with Kareem [Martin] going up there and J.J. [Patterson] going up there next year. It's basically Tar Heel Nation around here.

"With Ohio State, Coach [Everett] Withers was the head coach last year [at UNC], but he went to Ohio State. I really like him and he liked the way I played. I guess he took my recruitment with him and didn't want to let me go. And Coach [Mike] Vrabel, with him having recent NFL experience and he played for my favorite team."

With the strong fan contingent in the area, UNC has established a pipeline with Roanoke Rapids, with alumni Darrius Massenburg, Martin, and Patterson becoming Tar Heels.

"I hear about it every day of my life – I can't escape it," Jones said with a laugh."But, I'm not going to let it play a role in my college decision, because it's not about everybody else – it's about where I want to go."

Instead of recruiting Jones for UNC, Patterson, who is a neighbor of his, has offered Jones with advice for the recruiting process.

"He said, ‘Don't let nobody pressure you to come to North Carolina, because it's your decision,'" Jones said.

The only two schools Jones has visited are UNC and South Carolina. Outside of Friday's return visit to UNC, Jones doesn't have any upcoming trips planned.

"I'm going day-by-day, week-by-week," Jones said.

If cleared medically, Jones will attend several camps this summer.

"I'm jogging, running, and lifting now," Jones said. "I'm ahead of time on my recovery, but I'm not going to rush it."

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