Hood Making Frequent UNC Visits

North Carolina pledge Elijah Hood attended his first UNC football game of the season on Saturday and noticed some changes from the games he attended as a junior.

"The atmosphere definitely has improved from last year," Hood said. "It wasn't last year's NC State game, because a lot of people came out to that one and showed their support. But I enjoyed the atmosphere and I noticed some of the changes they've made. And it was good to see UNC come out with the win."

Hood, a 6-foot, 209-pound running back from Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic, arrived on campus several hours prior to kickoff. Thus, he received ample time to spend with current Tar Heel players, specifically former teammate Colin Porter, who is a walk-on offensive lineman, and Shakeel Rashad, who is sitting out this season with a knee injury. Hood also mingled in the Tar Heel locker room.

"[Going into the locker room] made me feel like I really couldn't wait to get there," Hood said. "I almost felt like I should be suiting with them. It really does feel like home. I'm real comfortable there. All the guys are real great and I just get along with them so well."

Also prior to kickoff, Hood spoke at length with Bubba Cunningham, UNC's athletic director.

"We just talked about family and UNC, the choices, how he's enjoyed UNC, and how he's been through the whole college situation with his own kids," Hood said. "We just talked about how he handled that. We just got into the process."

While on the sideline for pregame warm-ups, Hood spent a lot of time with Antonio Williams, a 2016 running back prospect who is also committed to UNC. Among other things, the two discussed the future of UNC's running backs.

"I know he's excited because he's just getting started into recruiting," Hood said. "When he gets [to UNC], I'll be either a junior or a red-shirt [sophomore] so I guess I could be one of those mentor type figures to him."

Saturday's visit was Hood's second in two weeks. Off from school the week prior, Hood decided to spend an entire day in Chapel Hill.

"I love it up there, so any time I get to go I want to visit" Hood said. "It was nice to watch a full practice. I got to see the meetings and what they do to prepare for a game. It was real interesting to see how focused those guys were because it was prior to the Miami game and everyone was real excited."

Since committing to UNC in late August, Hood says his relationship with the UNC staff, specifically Gunter Brewer, has only improved.

"I can tell they really care about me and my family," Hood said. "I'm happy that I'm going to go to a coaching staff that really cares about me and is going to take good care of me. I'm just hoping I can go up there and make some plays for them and do what they hope I can do."

If Hood is half as productive for UNC as he's been for Catholic, the Tar Heels' running attack will be a force. In nine games this season, Hood has rushed for 2,037 yards and 26 touchdowns on 210 attempts (9.7-yard average).

"We've really turned the corner," Hood said. "We kind of had that rough streak in the beginning. We were playing some real difficult teams and they made us dig deep. After that, I think we came out a better football team."

After splitting its first four games, Catholic has won five consecutive. A couple of the teams left in its wake included UNC pledges – Cayson Collins and Robert Dinkins. In both aforementioned situations those future teammates' goal was to stop Hood.

"I'm thinking about scoring a touchdown - that's all that's going through my head when I get the ball," Hood said. "I don't see any player. I see opposite jersey colors and them trying to get at me while I'm trying to get at them. I don't necessarily know who's out there at the moment."

A unique characteristic of Hood's personality is his ability to effortlessly switch between game mode and friend mode. After each contest, Hood made sure to seek out his future UNC teammate for a brief conversation.

"It's just something in me," Hood said. "When the ball is snapped and the play is going I'm just in a mode. After the play, everything is good again. I guess I'm angry at the world for that split second [during the play]. I don't know what happens."

Collins and Dinkins, and several others, hope to see Hood "angry at the world" during the Shrine Bowl. All three plus Josh Cabrera and Freeman Jones will represent NC in the 77th edition of the game.

"First, it was just an honor to be selected to the Shrine Bowl," Hood said. "And then getting to play football for my state is a great thing. And then getting to play with all my teammates at Carolina is another great thing. We can hurry up and try to get that team chemistry. We're going to try to go out there and make plays and show the world that Carolina is getting football players at a high level."

Shortly after playing in the Shrine Bowl, Hood will graduate from Catholic. He then plans to enroll at UNC in January.

"I've got my transcripts in and have dealt with all the NCAA [Clearinghouse] stuff," Hood said.

While acclimation was definitely a factor, anxiousness played the biggest role in Hood decision to enroll early at UNC.

"I just want to hurry up and see what I can do for the football team," Hood said. "Also, it helps me get used to the college and introduce me into a college life more slowly and get acclimated to UNC and where everything is, the workouts, and everything that goes into being a student athlete… By the fall, I'll already know what I'm doing and I'll be able to get the ball rolling."

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