"And then when you build that network under the umbrella of the UNC coaches, I think that creates great opportunity for them."
After spending a good portion of the months of April and May on the road for the Spring Evaluation Period, it would be hard to fault members of UNC's coaching staff if they decided to stay home Wednesday evening with their families. Instead, all nine assistant coaches were guest speakers during the Charlotte Metro Football Clinic, which was held in Hendrick Motorsports' Team Room.
"It's a tremendous sacrifice, period, coaching whether it's high school or the collegiate level," Central Cabarrus head coach Donnie Kiefer said. "I've coached on the collegiate level and it is so time consuming. But [being here on Wednesday night] shows that [the UNC coaches] want to have relationships with the high school coaches. It's not about ‘Hey, just send us your kids. We don't need you.' They're doing this for us. They're doing this to benefit us, as well as to build relationships."
"It says that they care about their product, they're invested in their product, and they're not a fly-by organization," Hales said. "They're not just going to come in, win a couple of games, and go to the next job. They care about where they are. They care about the state of North Carolina and the football that's played here."
During the two previous year's Charlotte Metro Football Clinics, three or four UNC assistant coaches spoke. That number more than doubled on Wednesday night.
"We wanted to place an emphasis on the [Greater Charlotte] Area," UNC's wide receiver coach Gunter Brewer said. "There's such a vast group of people within the Charlotte Metro Area, so we want to hit that area hard. Coach [Larry] Fedora was the driving force making sure we've been present during a bunch of mini clinics not only in the state, but in some of the surrounding states.
"Coach Fedora isn't allowed to be out [per NCAA rules]. That's the only reason why he wasn't there."
Jay M. Robinson High School and DV Sport sponsored the event, which was attended by high school coaches representing Cabarrus, Davidson, Gaston, Guilford, Iredell, and Mecklenburg Counties.
"I think it's a great idea for them to get out to this part of the state and allow us to get to know the whole staff instead of just the guy who recruits our area," Belmont (N.C.) South Point head coach Mickey Lineberger said. "I'll say this: I think the UNC guys are outworking everybody in the state right now. They are coming out beating on the bushes."
The UNC staff's efforts have paid dividends in improved success with in-state recruiting. Eight N.C. products were a part of its 2014 recruiting class, including three of the top 12.
"Not that we have a lot of influence with where our kids go, because they're going to go wherever they're going to go. But, I feel great about Coach Brewer being here and that makes me happy and the kids pick up on that – they're smart kids," said Hales, whose quarterback Anthony Ratliff is verbally committed to UNC.
The event began in unique fashion for a football coaching clinic. Names of attendees were randomly drawn and placed on two teams – one captained by Vic Koenning, UNC's Associate Head Coach of Defense, and the other by Seth Littrell, UNC's Assistant Head Coach for Offense. Everyone then headed to a practice pit area where the two teams competed to see which one could change all four tires on a NASCAR car in the shortest amount of time.
"That's the first time I've ever seen a pit crew competition anywhere, to be honest with you," Kiefer said. "In fact, my defensive coordinator, Daniel Crosby, I put him on the team because he does that. He has actually worked on race teams before, so we threw a wringer in there for them. And of course his team won."
Lineberger was a member of the losing team.
"It's just like any other sport – there's a lot of technique and you have to really work at your trade to be good at it," Lineberger said. "Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to get coached up. We were really learning on the go.
"That was about as hands on as anything that I've ever seen. I've been to some weight lifting clinics where you lifted weights as a demonstration, but nothing like that."
Hendrick Motorsports' Chris Burkey and Keith Flynn helped host the event. Both have football backgrounds – Burkey was a part of UNC's staff, while Flynn played at UNC and coached in college and high school. The two proposed the idea of the pit competition.
"They said let's change it up this year," Brewer said. "They came up with the idea of a pit crew challenge that mixed the high school coaches with the college coaches."
Following the competition, the entire group then returned to the team room where UNC coaches Brewer, Dan Disch, Koenning, Keith Gilmore, and Ron West, plus Dre Bly, who was recently elected for enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame, instructed groups of high school coaches simultaneously. After a five-minute break, the aforementioned group of speakers was replaced by Tar Heel assistants Keith Heckendorf, Chris Kapilovic, Littrell, and Larry Porter, in addition to Carolina Panthers' wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl, whose son will be a freshman wide receiver at UNC this fall.
Football conversation extended beyond the speaker's presentations.
"I went over there to grab a slice of pizza and soda and Brewer and I ended up drawing up plays on the table," Hales said. "That stuff you can't put a price tag on. No. 1, it's great to have that relationship. And then No. 2, ‘Tell me about your family. Let's talk about this play. Now tell me more about your family.' It just strengthens these relationships and that's where this staff has done such a great job. Gunter obviously is as good as it gets as a recruiter, but just getting to know all these [UNC coaches] you feel great about… sending your kids up there because you know they're going to be taken care of."