T.J. Brunson’s trip to visit his brother, who resides in Durham, had been in the works for quite some time. But when North Carolina offered ten days prior, the 6-foot, 220-pound linebacker from Columbia (S.C.) Richland Northeast decided to make a slight detour on his way to the Bull City.
Since most of the Tar Heels’ staff was out of the office on Saturday, Brunson’s UNC stay wasn’t long – roughly 45 minutes. Tray Scott, who recruits a large chunk of the Palmetto State for UNC, was one of the few coaches on campus.
“It was, more or less, a meet and greet sort of thing,” Brunson said. “I talked with Coach Scott and we got to know one another, he spoke with my parents, and then we walked around the different facilities in the football building.”
The experience was enough to prompt Brunson to work on a follow up visit in June. During that return, Brunson is looking to meet defensive coordinator Gene Chizik and linebackers coach John Papuchis.
“I want to see how I can build a relationship with those two,” Brunson said. “I want to see just everything, because I didn’t get a chance to see everything. I want to know every aspect of North Carolina.”
Richland Northeast is virtually located in the backyard of the University of South Carolina. He said that proximity won’t provide the Gamecocks with any sort of advantage, though.
“[UNC] has a great chance with me,” Brunson said. “I was born in Goldsboro and I still have family around there. I was never limited to staying in state. I’m open – I’m completely open to anyone who has what I want and need in a school.”
Brunson moved from Goldsboro to Columbia at the age of four. But he has returned to N.C. to visit with relatives every summer and every break, he says. Furthermore, he grew up a fan of South Carolina’s biggest rival, Clemson.
“[Being a Clemson fan so close to South Carolina] hasn’t been easy,” Brunson said with a laugh. “My dad’s a [South] Carolina fan and I’m a Clemson fan.”
If all that wasn’t enough evidence, Brunson says that out of his five offers – Georgia Southern, Louisville, UNC, NC State, and South Carolina – UNC is his favorite.
“From the offers that I have, North Carolina is the one that’s sticking out the most,” Brunson said. “I haven’t established a relationship with any coaches, besides Coach Scott, and that’s a big factor for me.”
On Saturday, Scott explained to Brunson why UNC decided to offer.
“He said they’re looking for someone who can come in and play right away and be a different maker,” Brunson said. “They’re looking for me to bring production, relentlessness – they need somebody that can make plays.”
Brunson hasn’t had any difficulty being productive for Richland Northeast. Last season, he accumulated 134 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles.
In addition to the introduction, Scott provided Brunson a tour of UNC’s facilities.
“The facilities were really cool,” Brunson said. “They have everything that you need. Everything was new and pretty fresh.”
In addition to his return to UNC – which will occur when he’s in the area visiting family – Brunson plans to visit Georgia Southern. He also hopes to travel to Purdue, which has expressed strong interest, but may have to wait until the fall when he can use an official trip.
During the football season, Brunson attended games at Florida (vs. South Carolina), Tennessee (vs. Missouri), Virginia (vs. Kent State), and Clemson (vs. NC State). He returned to NC State and South Carolina during the offseason.
UNC signed two South Carolina high schoolers in February – Johnathan Sutton and Ty’Son Williams. Brunson is familiar with both. His teammate is Sutton’s cousin.
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