Signee Update: Nazair Jones

Although it's been about ten months since doctors cleared him to participate in football activities, North Carolina signee Nazair Jones is still working to return to full health.

"I think I'm getting pretty close back to 100 percent," Jones said. "I'm not as explosive as I was my junior year – that's not a big secret. I didn't get to 100 percent during the football season, because every week it was a different week, different [opponents], [and] different schemes that coaches throw at you. So I didn't really get a chance to get to 100 percent. I tried – I got pretty close – but I didn't. I played pretty well, but I definitely didn't do as well as my junior season and that was kind of disappointing. But I plan on making up for it my freshman season or whenever I get on the field."

Following a stellar junior football season, Jones, a defensive end from Roanoke Rapids, suffered a rare disorder that caused him to lose nearly 50 pounds and put his football career in jeopardy. His condition was finally properly diagnosed last spring and he was cleared to return to the football field in June.

Jones hopes to reach 100-percent health by the time preseason practice begins in August.

"That's definitely the plan," Jones said. "But I know the trainers up there, they probably have something planned for me already. I'm just going to go up there and do what they tell me to do."

Jones hasn't been told either way if he'll be red-shirted this coming season.

"I'm sure whether I get red-shirted or not will depend on how I practice," Jones said. "If they have already made the decision to red-shirt me, I don't care – it's just an extra year. I'm just going to leave it up to them. I really have no control over it, except how I practice."

In the meantime, Jones' focus is being as physically prepared as possible when he arrives on campus on June 12. He's been following the workout regimen UNC's strength and conditioning staff sent him shortly after Signing Day.

"It's not about my weight," Jones said. "I'm just trying to get my strength up to par with the rest of the guys, because I'm not going to be playing against little high schoolers anymore."

Jones says he currently is at 256 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame.

"I weighed in [on Monday] morning," Jones said. "It was hard, because I had to maintain my weight for football, but I had to be light on my feet so that I could move around when I got out on the court."

Jones, like most athletes, lost weight during the basketball season – approximately ten pounds. However, since that season concluded, Jones, who played his senior football season at 250 pounds, regained his lost weight and then some. His goal is to be at about 260 pounds when he officially arrives at UNC.

Speaking of basketball, Jones was happy to return to the court, his first love, this winter. His illness forced him to miss his entire junior basketball season.

"I had fun being with the guys for the limited time we had left together," Jones said. "I had a little bit of a target on my back and you have the crowds that are real close to you and they always know about you. It was always fun to hear what they had to say."

Jones estimates that he missed the first half of the basketball season because of the overlap with his football season. Since he played in both the Shrine Bowl and Offense-Defense All-American games, his football season extended longer than usual.

"When I got back, I had to get back in basketball shape and that took a couple of weeks," Jones said. "By the time I got in good shape, it was too late, because we only had five or six games left."

Roanoke Rapids was eliminated from the NCHSAA 2A playoffs in the first round, but he averaged ten points, 12 rebounds, a couple blocks, and six assists a game.

Jones says that the UNC coaching staff has stayed in contact with him. He mostly communicates with Randy Jordan, who made an evaluation visit to Roanoke Rapids two weeks ago, but also speaks with Keith Gilmore, who called Jones on Sunday.

"I'm not worried about them calling me, because I know they're out recruiting," Jones said. "I'm just handling my business on this end and can't wait to get up there."

When Jones verbally committed, Deke Adams was UNC's defensive line coach. Gilmore has since replaced him. Subsequently, Jones and Gilmore have been attempting to build a relationship.

"I met with [Gilmore] once, but I still need to get my mom and my mentor up there to meet him," Jones said. "I'm just hoping Coach Gilmore will be around my entire college career, so that I can get continuity in my coaching.

"I didn't really get a chance to build a strong relationship with Coach Adams. I met him and we talked, but I didn't really have a strong bond with Coach Adams. Coach Jordan was the coach I spoke to the most during my recruitment."

Jones isn't exactly sure how UNC will use him, but he believes the goal is to eventually play him at defensive tackle. That may mean a year or so at end as he continues to add weight.

Additionally, Jones is unsure what jersey number he'll wear at UNC.

"I wanted to wear 90, but Jessie [Rogers] got it," Jones said. "I always told him that I'm going to steal his jersey before the game.

"I wouldn't mind 99, but that's retired."

Jones has been talking about rooming together with fellow incoming freshmen Dajuan Drennon and Greg Webb. Drennon and Jones played in the Offensive-Defense All-American Game last January.

"We got a chance to bond [at the Offense-Defense All-American Game]," Jones said. "We get along real well, so I'm hoping we'll be able to room together."

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