USAAAB: Hood Turning Chapters

SAN ANTONIO -- Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic running back Elijah Hood is finishing his high school career this week, as he will enroll at North Carolina shortly thereafter to begin his Tar Heel career.

Hood, who attended UNC's win in last weekend's Belk Bowl, feels like he's already on the team.

"It was fun, I enjoyed watching us," he said after the East's first practice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. "We performed well. I saw some flashes of really good things to come, especially the young guys. They showed out. I saw a lot of youth doing a lot of good things."

Hood flipped his commitment from Notre Dame to North Carolina in August, and since then he has been at peace with having the recruiting process behind him. The blowout win against Cincinnati re-enforced his already strong belief in the football side of the school.

"I like the direction of the program and where it's going," he said. "It is the place I was most comfortable with. I've been dealing with North Carolina since my recruiting basically started. It was a place I was comfortable with and really liked, the education is still great and I think I can get everything there that I could get out of Notre Dame and it's closer to home."

Being on the East in the U.S. Army Bowl means not only is Hood teammates with some future Tar Heels, but also with a trio of Notre Dame commitments, including offensive tackle Quenton Nelson of Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic.

And while Nelson and a few others are playfully telling him to come back to the Irish, Hood said there is no reason to be concerned.

"It's fine," Hood said. "(Nelson) jokes around and we joke around. He's still a good friend of mine. We still talk all the time. It's just a personal thing."

Hood is coming off a senior season in which he carried 351 times for 3,640 yards and 53 touchdowns. He already played in the NC-SC Shrine Bowl and is now getting ready for his final game as a high school player while catching up with a lot of players from other states that he has come across during the recruiting process.

"I'm trying to have a lot of fun and seeing a lot of old friends because I played against a lot of these guys in camps," Hood said. "It's different seeing them with all the pads on, but it's just speed."

After Saturday's game, Hood will have a week to get ready for his move to college.

"It's weird because next week you're basically gone," he said. "High school is over. I was trying to think about my homework, and I don't have any. It's all done. Everything is all different. You're going to get slapped in the face with life.

"I expect it to be difficult. I know I have to work. I have a lot of work ahead of me. I have to get ready to put it to the grinder."

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