After helping Buford (Ga.) wax Lilburn (Ga.) Berkmar, 56-0, on Friday night, Polino and teammate Jordan Perlotte departed for Chapel Hill at 10 a.m. on Saturday. They arrived on campus a couple hours prior to the kickoff of UNC’s season opener, a 56-29 victory over Liberty.
“I parked over at the parking decks at the hospital and walked all the way down,” Polino said. “So it’s pretty much walking through the whole Tar Heel Nation to get to the Kenan [Football] Center. They looked like they were really about football up there.”
Once in the Kenan Football Center, Polino met briefly with Chris Kapilovic, the Tar Heels’ offensive line coach. When Kapilovic left for pregame warm-ups, Polino united with Ron West, his primary recruiter, for a quick tour.
“They just said, ‘Thanks for coming up. Great to have you on campus,’” Polino said.
After watching warm-ups, Polino took his seat and soaked in the atmosphere of Kenan Stadium.
“I was really surprised that they had a really big turnout,” Polino said. “The student section was amped up. All the fans were amped up. It was a great atmosphere.”
In the locker room after the game, Polino caught up with a jovial Larry Fedora.
“He’s always an amped up guy, but he was pretty amped up after the win,” Polino said. “He was just telling me, ‘I’m proud of you guys and your class. You guys are coming in strong. You guys are doing a great job recruiting other guys. As you can see, we’re on the rise. We just need to tweak a couple of things here and there, though.’”
Playing for a nationally ranked program, high school football occupies much of Polino’s time. Thus, most of his recruiting efforts have been focused on 2016 teammate Isaac Nauta, a four-star tight end. Further simplifying the situation: Nauta lines up next to Polino in most formations.
“I’m trying my best with him,” Polino sad. “I try to flash Tar Heel Blue in his face as much as I can.”
On Saturday, Polino laid the ground work to recruit Jalen Dalton, the most highly ranked uncommitted recruit in attendance.
“I didn’t really talk recruiting with [Dalton],” Polino said. “I was more introducing myself, because I had heard people saying that he’s leaning towards North Carolina. So I was just talking to him like I was Mason [Veal], [Anthony] Ratliff, and the other guys.”
With fellow UNC pledges Juval Mollette, Ratliff-Williams, and Veal, Polino was focused on building a bond that will only help during their college careers.
“Ratliff was trying to be as nice as he could to me and Mason, because we’re offensive linemen and he’s the quarterback so he’s kind of being smart,” Polino said. “Mason’s a cool guy. I talk to him when I can see him.”
The two commitments that Polino is closest to, though, weren’t at Saturday’s game – Andre Smith and William Sweet.
Although the two play football in different states, Polino and Smith shared a football field a couple weeks back.
“He’s a good player,” Polino said. “He’s a strong, strong kid. He doesn’t like to give ground. It will be interesting to see what the next four years will be like. I’m glad he’s coming to North Carolina.”
Buford defeated Smith’s Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian squad, 17-0, during an ESPN televised contest.
“The whole ESPN experience is a lot different than any other game day in high school,” Polino said. “They bring out extra lights so that they can play it in HD. They have signs and trucks that are up there two days before the game. Everyone in town kind of knows what’s going on, so it builds up that energy a little bit... During the game, the whole town is there and people from other towns are there. It’s like you’re playing in a college football game.”
Following UNC’s victory Saturday night, Polino stayed the night with former teammate Mikey Bart, a sophomore defensive end. The two also hung out with a group of offensive linemen, including Bentley Spain.
“They were all beat, so we just watched the LSU-Wisconsin game,” Polino said. “They were just small-talking to me about the game.”
Polino would like to return to Chapel Hill this Saturday for the San Diego State game. But with family in town, he doesn’t believe that will be possible. Games against Virginia Tech (Oct. 4), Georgia Tech (Oct. 18), and NC State (Nov. 29) are more likely return dates, he said.