As much as possible for a spring game, North Carolina rolled out the red carpet for Michael Carter and his father, who were making their first visit to the school on Saturday.
“They treated me like a priority,” Carter said. “I know you hear it a lot, but they just really treated me like they want me there.”
That feeling began as soon as Carter, a 5-foot-8, 178-pound running back from Navarre (Fla.), stepped on campus on Saturday afternoon.
“When I walked in, I didn’t have to wait to find someone,” Carter said. “They were already at the front door waiting for me.”
Carter’s ostensible priority status continued during his coaches meeting circuit.
“I talked to Coach [Larry] Porter for maybe 20 minutes and that didn’t leave much time for me to talk to Coach [Larry] Fedora and he had six people waiting,” Carter said. “They were just like, ‘Well, he needs to see Michael now.’ So I went in front of six people and talked to [Fedora] for like eight minutes, maybe nine. And then he had one minute but he had six people to talk to, so they brought the six people in for basically a ‘Hey, glad you came.’ Not only did they make time for me, but Coach Fedora seemed really excited to have me there.”
The situation didn’t change for Carter when he reached Kenan Stadium for the spring game.
“After the team came out, we started walking over towards our seats and one guy yelled at me – I guess he saw my name tag – he was like, ‘Michael Carter,’” Carter said. “I turned around and he was like, ‘We want you to be a Tar Heel! Let’s go!’ And then a few people started yelling, ‘Yeah, Heels!’”
That wasn’t the only observation that impressed Carter about the fans.
“They know everybody on a personal level,” Carter said. “Like, we were just sitting up in the stands watching the game and Mack Hollins made a play. I expected them to know his name, because he’s a starting receiver. But then, they were like, ‘Man, that as a good play by so-and-so’ and I had never heard of [the player], personally. I was impressed by how personal they take UNC football.”
Heading into the visit, UNC was already in great shape for Carter – he reneged on his plan to defer all recruiting visits to the summer when the Tar Heels offered earlier this month. Thus, Saturday’s experience has unsurprisingly further continued UNC’s rise.
“They definitely made their way to a top three right now,” Carter said. “But, I don’t really have an official list. But, I really enjoyed that visit.”
With the UNC visit behind him, Carter will resume his visit deferment plan. However, he has begun to contemplate commitment strategies.
“I’ve been talking to my dad because this process is kind of like a timing thing,” Carter said. “If there’s a good opportunity somewhere, if you wait too long then it could be gone. I don’t have a necessary date for a commitment, but I’ll take some visits in the summer and hopefully I’ll be committed by the beginning of the season.”
A return to UNC figures to be among Carter's summer travels. If four-star teammate Nick Brahms visits Chapel Hill during the summer, then Carter will likely tag along with him. However, when Carter last spoke to Brahams, he was talking about visiting UNC this coming weekend, which is something Carter won’t be able to do.
During Carter’s 20-minute meeting with Porter, UNC’s running backs coach, the two attempted to build upon their relationship.
“We’ve talked [before Saturday], but we haven’t really gotten to know each other well,” Carter said. “We just talked about life. We talked about football for a few minutes, like what they have coming in to the future, new innovative ways to get better, [and] ways to keep track of progress.
“But he asked me what I wanted to major in and I told him marketing. He told me that they have a top business school in the country. And he told me, ‘So many people come into college without a plan.’ He believes in me. He believes that I could be successful at this level.”
Naturally, Carter’s eight/nine-minute meeting with Fedora wasn’t nearly as extensive.
“He thinks I could make an impact early,” Carter said. “But, he was just happy to get me on campus.”
After rushing for 1,474 yards during his first two seasons, Carter’s junior campaign began even more promising with 526 yards and nine touchdowns in less than three games. Midway through that third game, he hyperextended his knee tearing his PCL completely and leaving partial tears in his LCL and meniscus.