Hood Brings Loaded Trophy Case to UNC

When Elijah Hood begins classes on Wednesday, it will mark the first time a single college has enrolled N.C.'s Associated Press Player of the Year in consecutive classes.

"I think that's a direct reflection on the university and what it has to offer and then the staff itself being able to recruit quality people that are also really outstanding players," said UNC assistant coach Gunter Brewer, who served as Hood's primary recruiter. "When you have someone of their stature that chooses your university and they have choices such as Notre Dame, Stanford, Tennessee, and Georgia you're in a high stakes game. When they choose you, it's a feather in your cap because you got these guys to stay in-state."

A year ago, the AP's highest in-state honor was awarded to T.J. Logan, who proceeded to rush for 456 yards and scored five total touchdowns in nine games as a true freshman for UNC.

"I hope we keep the tradition going," Hood said. "It's a good thing to keep the player of the year staying in state. I just hope we keep it going."

Hood, a 6-foot, 221-pound running back from Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic, followed the state's top award – which he earned thanks to 3,690 yards and 53 touchdowns as a senior – with a prestigious national honor. Hood was named the U.S. Army National Player of the Year Award. He's the second N.C. native to ever win the honor (Chris Leak was the first), and the first UNC pledge to do so.

"That really caught me off guard," Hood said. "I had thought I was not getting that at all. When they called my name, I just thought ‘Are you serious? Me? Little old me, what did I do?' It really caught me off guard. I was really happy, though. It was just a great award to win. The kind of guys that get that award are AP [Adrian Peterson] and Jimmy Clausen – those kind of guys. That's a big-time award."

Despite how crammed his trophy case has become, Hood has been able to keep a level head.

"I've been raised to be humble and never take anything for granted," Hood said. "It's not really my gifts – God gave it to me. I'm just benefiting from what he gave me.

"Besides, all that doesn't really matter now, because it's all starting over anyway."

A week after spending eight days in South Carolina with a group of future UNC teammates for the Shrine Bowl, Hood spent last week in San Antonio with Tar Heel commitments Caleb Henderson, Freeman Jones, and Bentley Spain.

"The fact that I know these guys personally and that they're all great, lovable, fun guys is great," Hood said. "I get along with the guys I was with at the Shrine Bowl and then I went to a completely different set of guys at the [U.S. Army All-American Bowl]. But it felt just the same – they're all great guys. They're going to be my best buds at UNC and we're going to have a lot of fun and we're going to do some great things for this program. I'm really excited to get started."

Before getting started, Hood had one last formality to complete – his UNC official visit. After returning home from San Antonio on Sunday, Hood and his parents traveled to Chapel Hill for the visit.

"I just soaked it all in," Hood said. "I tried to get real comfortable and tried to get to know the names of the places and remember the campus and get everything down. I'll actually be going to class and that's just kind of surreal in itself."

In a couple of months, Hood will be hitting UNC's practice field for spring football.

"It's the next step," Hood said. "I have a lot of work to do, so I'm just trying to get mentally ready. I'm just going to work hard. I just want to hit the weight room and learn the plays and do what the coaches ask of me on the field and in the classroom. I'm just going to try to be successful."

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