The heralded defensive tackle announced during a ceremony on the Woodbridge (Va.) High School football field that he'll play college football at North Carolina.
After he donned the UNC hat, he sat down with Inside Carolina for a one-on-one interview.
What was it ultimately that made you decide on UNC?
“Ultimately, it was about mom. I’ve been up there a few times and I love the place. Like I said, it was up to mom. I needed her to come see it; I needed her to tell me that she liked it and that she was ok with it. And she did, so it was a done deal.
“I got it out the way early. North Carolina, I loved it. It’s a beautiful place. I get along with the people there. Coach [Larry] Fedora is a great guy, straightforward, and his attitude never changes – he’s the same dude. And that goes for the rest of the coaching staff.
“And I built a great relationshp with Coach [Tray] Scott. We have this little fruit snack thing going. Every time I come down, I get a box of fruit snacks – I just like fruit snacks. It’s just something we do – it’s a family thing.”
I know that you needed your mom’s blessing, but when did you begin to lean towards UNC?
“I want to say the Freak Show. I had been there and I had met with the coaches, but being able to be coached by them was a great opportunity. They’re great coaches. Coach Scott showed me how to be a great player in two or three hours, so imagine what he could do with me in four years.”
Why move up the decision date? I’m sure UNC would have waited.
“I just felt like I didn’t need to wait. I knew where I wanted to go. There was no need for waiting.”
Did you visit UNC on Thursday with the intentions of committing if your mother gave it the okay?
“I was thinking about it, but I really wanted my pops by my side, which is Coach ‘G’ over there. So I had to wait until today. It hurt a little bit, but I had to wait until today.”
Did you tell the UNC coaches?
“No, I didn’t tell them at all.”
Did you give them any hints?
“When my mom and I were talking to Coach Fedora, I might have given him a little ‘wink, wink.’ But, I didn’t really say anything.”
How did the UNC coaches find out?
“Coach Fedora was just on FaceTime with my assistant coach, so he saw the whole thing.”
How firm is this commitment? Is UNC the only school you’re going to visit?
“I plan to visit Alabama, because I have a [former] teammate down there, Da’Shawn [Hand]. But I’m fully committed to North Carolina right now. Unless something else drastically changes – like the whole coaching staff gets fired. But I’m a Tar Heel. The Alabama visit wouldn’t be a recruiting visit – it would just to be a friend – and it would only to see a friend.”
When’s the next time you’ll visit UNC?
“I think it’s going to be [Oct.] 24 when they play UVa and then I’ll be up there Nov. 7 for the Carolina-Duke game.”
Obviously Thursday’s visit was for your mom, but outside of that what did you get out of it?
“I’ve been down there so many times, but Thursday was the first time I’ve seen the academic side of the campus. It was great.
“In doing my research, I saw that the CEO of ESPN went to North Carolina and I want to major in business and sports marketing, so that’s a direct line to ESPN and data analysis.”
What did your mom say during the ride home from UNC?
“The distance is great for her – four hours is a great distance for her. She really enjoyed everything – the academic side, and the fact that if, God forbid, anything happens and I got hurt they would still give me a full ride there for four years. And [she liked] the fact that they’re on their guys about their grades. And they showed me the whole tutoring plan and she loved it. And the fact that these coaches, they email her [and] they talk to her. The players know her. She has a great relationship with Carolina and that’s something that I really love.”
You had a really long recruiting process – you’ve been recruited since your freshman year and you’ve visited countless campuses – can you summarize what it’s been like?
“It’s been exhausting coming home then having to work out, being on the road for hours, it’s been stressful, but it’s been enjoyable. But I was able to end it the way I wanted to with where I wanted to go. As some people know, I grew up a North Carolina fan. ”
During your recruitment, UNC completely changed its defensive staff. What was that like?
“When Coach [Keith] Gilmore left, it was pretty hard, because I had developed a good relationship with him. But when I talked to UNC on the phone in Coach G’s office, they were telling me they were hiring the new D-line coach. I was a little hesitant. But I when I got to talk to Coach Scott on the phone for the first time, he sounded like my D-line coach. He’s just a straightforward guy, high tempo, and he just reminds me of Coach G, which I really like.”
How do you feel now that you’ve announced your decision?
“I feel happy. I feel relieved. I feel like I can go home and worry about the school year and focus on my grades. I can worry about getting my grades right, lifting, and getting this state ring that I’m chasing.”
You’ve mentioned in the past about the players on UNC’s roster who also played in northern Virginia. What impact did that have on your decision?
“It played a big role, because out of all the schools I visited none of them have so many guys from this area. And [UNC] recruits heavily out of this area. Knowing those guys personally I could trust what they were telling me about their lives there. Everything the coaches told me, I confirmed with [the players] and they confirmed everything.”
During your announcement, you had a touching moment about Coach Wortham. Can you elaborate?
“He’s had me for three years. God gave me the talent, but [Wortham] really showed me how to use it. I thank him everyday for showing me how to use my abilities, taking care of me, and just watching out.”