WELDON, N.C. – It may not be the most handsome statistic, but it is a significant one. Off the field, it cannot be overlooked that many successful athletes have come from broken homes. It's certainly not a fact that is restricted just to the sporting arena, but rather a cross-section of humanity.
Still, perhaps as much as any other endeavor, to become a high profile football prospect one must be driven to succeed. And though it's not glamorous, countless players have used their trials from a difficult childhood as the source of their desire to become the best.
Kentwan Balmer is no exception.
"Being in a single-parent household…that's what drives me more than anything else," Balmer said.
He's not alone of course. And while the parallel is more of a reflection of society and certainly cannot be narrowed down to a football issue, the truth remains. At least of the 2003 Tar Heels' signees who spent most of their childhood without either a father or mother in their lives, practically everyone says it's from that experience that they draw their strength.
"Seeing my mother struggle so much to raise my two brothers and I, that just made me want to come out and do the best I can at anything that I do," Balmer said. "My whole life, it's been tough. Everybody who has grown up in a single-parent household should know that.
"You form a bond with your family. It's not all about money; it's about love."
Of course, every situation is different and by no means is this observation meant to generalize or label masses. But simply put, one has to be tough to play football and growing up without necessities that many take for granted is a breeding ground for toughness.
Channeling that toughness into success is what separates the special individual – one with the type of character that UNC coach John Bunting insists on recruiting. Bunting is a master at finding that student-athlete.
"When you have character, that potential transfers into playmaking ability," Bunting said.
Balmer has another obstacle in front of him this year, staying focused and continuing to impress although some may doubt his ability since he has developed in relative anonymity. It will take even more hard work to prove his talent is on the same level as those recruits from bigger and more notorious football high schools.
But overcoming obstacles is what he, and many other Carolina recruits, do best. Even more impressive about Balmer his ability to shield himself from an environment that lends itself to negative distractions. Instead he is already a hero in the small working class community in which he lives.
"At any given moment, anything can happen," Balmer said. "[The UNC coaches] told me to just keep my head up and try not to worry about all of the hype and don't let it get to me. Just be a model student and excel on the field."
Next year, Balmer will take up residence in Chapel Hill – no bustling metropolis – but it might as well be considering where he will have come from.
"The biggest things about Kentwan are his work habits and his desire to be one of the best," Weldon head coach Grady Williams said.