"At the time, they were the only school recruiting me," Gaines said. "Plus, I'm a Carolina fan. My dad and all my family are Carolina fans. So it wasn't a hard decision to go out there when they gave me a chance."
Randy Jordan began UNC's pursuit of Gaines. Jordan's departure for the Washington Redskins created a void that wasn't filled until recently by Larry Porter.
Since he took over, Porter has worked hard to develop a relationship with Gaines. The two last spoke on Friday.
"He didn't want me to hold a grudge against Carolina because I had a dead period with Carolina," Gaines said. "After Coach Jordan left, I didn't really have a recruiter. So [Porter] told me that now that he's there, we're going to pick things back up and we're going to go from there. He said he's really interested in me.
"Hopefully everything will be the way it was."
During UNC's lapse, other schools not only begun to recruit Gaines, they offered. Boston College, Duke, NC State, and Virginia Tech have all offered.
"It kind of puts [UNC] at a disadvantage, but I'm still giving everybody a fair chance," Gaines said. "They have a lot to offer with the amount of players they have in the NFL – that's a big thing for me. With its tradition and me being a fan, it kind of helps. But with other schools offering, I'm just trying to enjoy all this recruiting and have fun."
UNC would like to see Gaines in camp this summer to determine whether to offer. The staff is torn on whether Gaines is a defensive end or Bandit in its 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
"[Porter] was just telling me that he really likes my body style and he sees that I can make plays and I'm an athlete," Gaines said. "So they want me to come down for their camp. I'll definitely head down there – because I went last year. So I'll go down there and we'll go from there. Hopefully, they'll offer me pretty soon."
Gaines floats between defensive end and outside linebacker for Nash Central. As a junior, he accumulated 92 tackles and 11 sacks.
Despite his fandom, Gaines said he wouldn't immediately commit if offered by UNC.
"Honestly, whoever offers me I'm going to give a fair chance," Gaines said. "Right now, if I had to say, Virginia Tech would be No. 1 because they're recruiting me the hardest and I have the best relationship with the coaches."