Up Close: Kentwan Balmer, Part I

Andy is back on the road again this year to provide his unique two-part in-depth profiles of UNC's 2004 commitments. Today, he reports from Weldon, N.C. on committed lineman Kentwan Balmer.

WELDON, N.C. – North Carolina 2004 football commitment Kentwan Balmer admits there is not much to do in his town except play sports. For three years at tiny 1-A Weldon High School, he was a well-kept secret.

But UNC assistant coach Kenny Browning made the trip north up I-95 many times. While he was recruiting former Weldon linebacker Levern Bynum, Browning was keeping an eye on a young defensive end, who was quickly filling out his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame.

Balmer is not a project by any means. One look at his size and it easy to see why Browning kept coming back.

"I'm from a small area, but that's what I like," Balmer said. "People from small town areas can excel just like you can from a big time school. I feel like 1-A schools are underrated. I'm just glad that people are shocked; it gives them something to talk about."

"This is a small area for recruiting, but Coach Browning has always been here," Weldon head coach Grady Williams added. "He likes the small town surprises like this. Kentwan just fits that mold tremendously."

Bynum is now a freshman at Winston-Salem State, while the younger Balmer will be the one to fulfill his dreams of playing football for the Tar Heels.

"I've been thinking about Carolina ever since my ninth grade year," Balmer said "The campus gives me a warm feeling every time I walk on it, since I first went there. It was like a home field for me. That is what made me realize that I really wanted to go there. That blue just makes you feel like you're in heaven.

"They're on TV every Saturday," he said. "Every time I turn I see Coach [John] Bunting. It just looks like a great program."

Wednesday, the Chargers' second full day of practice was scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Balmer was on the field an hour earlier working out with a couple of teammates. He beat his coach to practice by about 45 minutes.

"He's always been the kind of person that liked to get at it and work hard," Williams said. "Like I told Coach Browning, his best football is ahead of him. He's got a heart of gold. He's just a work hard guy."

With 103 tackles and 11 sacks as a junior, Williams likens his rising senior to another small town defensive end who went on to UNC and made good.

"I've seen [Julius] Peppers play; and if you will, I think he's kind of a ‘Mini Me' to a Peppers," Williams said referring to Dr. Evil's sidekick in the last two "Austin Powers" movies. "He's got all the tools. Peppers came from a small area, too."

And like Peppers, Balmer could likely walk on the Tar Heels basketball team if he desired. He earned all-conference honors on the hardwood last season. However, hoops dreams are not dancing in his head. He will concentrate just on football and academics while in Chapel Hill.

Williams is looking forward to seeing Balmer benefit from all the resources a first class Division I college program can provide.

"Of course we don't have the luxury of giving him everything he can get here," Williams said. "We just got a weight room for the school last year, and he's all excited."

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow…

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