Three days after returning from Chapel Hill, a phone conversation with UNC linebackers coach John Papuchis sealed the deal. Smith gave Larry Fedora the word on Thursday, and on Friday he made the public announcement.
Inside Carolina was in attendance for the announcement and an on-location interview immediate thereafter.
Your decision came down to the wire between Duke and UNC. What was it about the Tar Heels?
“The last visit I made, they showed me a lot about the school and the Tar Heels and what they have to offer. It just felt right in my mind to be a Tar Heel.”
Duke and UNC were the favorites. Did you struggle with deciding between the two?
“Yes, sir, there was a lot of going back and forth seeing what Duke had to offer [and] seeing what North Carolina had to offer. And it was just North Carolina outweighed Duke.”
How does it feel to get this decision out of the way?
“It feels great. Now I can focus on my teammates and helping everybody get better and focus on winning a state championship.”
When did the tide start to turn towards UNC?
“About Wednesday I talked to Coach J.P. and he just told me that Carolina was the place that I needed to be and I believed him.”
What did you get out of Sunday’s visit to UNC?
“The visit to Carolina on Sunday, they had a game plan of what I was going to do when I got there, how they were going to fit me into the defense, and how they were going to build the defense around me. They told me they’re going to bring in great D-line recruits – and for a linebacker, that’s very important to have big defensive linemen in front of you to protect you from the offensive linemen. They told me I’d have early playing time and they’re on the rise.”
Have they talked about how you and the other commitments fit together, particularly the two other linebackers?
“Yes, sir. They said that I would be a run stopper and middle of the field dropper. And [Tyrone Hopper and Dominique Ross] would turn [the play] in to me. And also they talked about Kyree Campbell and how he would protect me from the offensive linemen.”
Have you told the UNC coaches? If so, when?
“Yes, sir, I told them. I told them [Thursday].”
What did you say?
“I called Coach [Larry] Fedora and told him, ‘I’m Jonathan Smith and I’m a Tar Heel.’”
What was his reaction?
“He was hollering everywhere. He was happy.”
What does it mean for you to make this announcement here in front of not only your teammates, but this entire community?
“It means a lot, because this community has helped me do a lot of growing since I was a little kid. I moved here from Georgia and they took me in from Georgia with open arms and helped me grow as a person.”
Have you moved off of the stance of taking official visits elsewhere?
Do you know where?
How often will you visit UNC?
“Pretty often. I’ll be at most home games.”