Up Close: Nazair Jones, Part II

ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. --- For Nazair Jones, the pot of gold at the end of a long rainbow came in the form of a North Carolina scholarship offer in mid-July.

"They loved his junior film," Roanoke Rapids head coach Russell Weinstein said. "It was just a matter of him recovering and getting back to where he needs to be.

"I think Carolina recognized that this kid had a lot of heart and that he wanted to be a Tar Heel."

About an hour after receiving the offer, Jones, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive lineman, met with Larry Fedora and verbally committed.

"It was always where I wanted to be," Jones said. "I grew up loving basketball and I always wanted to go there for basketball. But I figured out I was pretty good at football. I have family up there [and] I have friends up there."

Ironically, it wasn't until Jones pressed pause on his recruitment that his health took a turn for the better.

"I think once we got Nazair back focused on the recovery, that's when things really started happening for him," Weinstein said. "He got past the recruiting thing and put it on the backburner and said, ‘I've got to get better [and] I've got to get well before I can get recruited.' Once he accepted that and that was his focus, that's when improvements started to happen."

Since taking office, the Fedora regime kept in constant contact with Weinstein. That contact included regular phone calls from Fedora himself and separate evaluation visits from assistant coaches Randy Jordan and Deke Adams.

"First and foremost, I just appreciate the honesty from them," Weinstein said. "Never once was Nazair ever led on. Never once was I ever not in complete understanding of what the situation was… The UNC coaches would communicate with me frequently to check on [Jones's] progress, to see how he was doing, [and] what his work habits were like."

Jones and his inner circle reciprocated the honesty.

"It was just open communication on both ends," Weinstein said. "I tried to be as honest with them as I could at all points and junctures about his condition."

UNC is recruiting Jones simply as a defensive lineman.

"I think a lot more will be known regarding [Jones' exact position] a year from now," Weinstein said. "I think as his body begins to develop and mature, he might end up at the same position that Kareem Martin is playing now. Or if he continues to fill out and get a lot bigger and ends up being a 295-pound kid, they might use him down where Sylvester Williams is. We don't know, because he's still growing – he wears a size 17 shoe. We just have to let nature take its course."

Speaking of Martin, Jones continues a recent trend of Division I-A linemen that have sprouted from the Roanoke Rapids area, which includes Martin as well as J.J. Patterson, Darrius Massenburg, and even Kentwan Balmer, who play high school ball in the neighboring town of Weldon.

"I think once Darrius came through and then when Kentwan came through from Weldon, kids started to recognize that you can come from out of Halifax County and get that scholarship, as long as you get the job done in the classroom," Weinstein said.

That trend has helped create a pipeline between Roanoke Rapids and UNC.

"Roanoke Rapids is full of Tar Heel fans," Jones said. "If you live in Roanoke Rapids, you're more than likely a Tar Heel fan and that has a lot to do with it. It's real close – it's the biggest D-1 that is closest to us... It's a bonus when I get up there that I'll have teammates up there and I'll have positive leaders to follow."

Nazair Jones Profile

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