“It was very enjoyable because I was up there with my commitment buddies – Juval [Mollette] and the recent de-commit [Emanuel] McGirt – and also a couple players – M.J. Stewart, Devin [Perry], and Quinshad Davis,” Ratliff said. “We walked around [campus], walked around Franklin Street, seeing a couple of Tar Heel fans, ran into a couple of students, getting to know people – it was a day in college without the classes, pretty much.”
The visit occurred days after McGirt, a four-star O-lineman, had returned from visiting Georgia and began questioning his UNC commitment. Knowing that, Ratliff made it his goal to erase any of McGirt’s fears, because every quarterback wants quality offensive linemen projecting him.
“We talked a bunch about why we committed to the school – me, Juval, and McGirt,” Ratliff said. “We pretty much committed there for the same reason – we all want to start something new at Carolina. We want to bring a National Championship and build onto a program that’s already great.”
Given their conversations, Ratliff was surprised when McGirt de-committed roughly a week later.
“When we had talked he sounded like he was into it – like he was ready to be a Tar Heel,” Ratliff said. “We were all going to do this thing together.
“At the end of the day, he’s got to go where he feels comfortable and if it’s not Carolina, then you can’t fault him for that. He has to be [at the college he chooses] for four years.”
Ratliff and McGirt have spoken since the de-commitment.
“He pretty much told me that Carolina isn’t off his list,” Ratliff said. “He just wants to see what other people have to offer him. There’s nothing wrong with that. I wish him the best.”
There’s no questioning Ratliff’s commitment. On Aug. 1, he signed a scholarship agreement with UNC.
“It’s definitely a monkey off my back, because it was bothering me a lot,” Ratliff said. “I wanted to go ahead and get it over with, because I was signed, sealed, and delivered once I gave my verbal to Carolina.”
Signing has allowed Ratliff to focus even more on his senior football season. Last season he was one of several new starters who were tasked with replacing a talented group of seniors that helped Butler win a NCHSAA 4AA Title.
“It’s definitely a different feeling stepping on the field with these guys, because we know the maturity level has shifted over,” Ratliff said. “Last year, we had first year starters across the board. Stepping in as a first year starter there’s such an anxiety level, especially coming off that 2012 team. You don’t want to be that team that drops the dynasty. It was a burden.”
Brian Hales, Butler’s head football coach, has noticed a marked improvement in Ratliff.
“Last year he was playing quarterback, but this year he’s commanding the offense,” Hales said. “Last year we transitioned the offense a little bit. So there was a learning curve for everybody, Anthony included. But this year he’s really taken charge – making sure everybody is lined up properly [and] correcting any mistakes he sees.”