UNC the 'Dream School' for Top Kicker Cooper Graham

The IMG Academy kicker just may receive a UNC offer, after his camp performance.

North Carolina plans to sign a kicker within the 2017 recruiting class. Although a kicker has yet to be offered a scholarship, Cooper Graham, who camped at UNC last month, is the odds on favorite.

"[Special Teams graduate assistant Zach Hanson] has told me that they are going to be giving [a kicker] a scholarship offer," Graham said. "He said that whoever they think is going to work the hardest and who's going to kick the best and just show what they have is going to get the spot.

"During the camp I was kicking and I did very well -- I was super happy with my performance. [The UNC coaches] basically told me it came down to me and [Brian] Delaney [for the offer]. So, once he committed [to Virginia], I knew it just came down to me just waiting for them to offer. 

"Coach Hanson just told me that, what it is: everybody just came back from vacation and hopefully once him, Coach [Larry] Fedora, and Coach [Larry] Porter get together, that they're going to call me."

Graham recently transferred to Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy -- six days ago, to be exact -- but is originally from Asheville. Thus, he says there's a 95-percent chance he'd immediately accept the opportunity to return to his home state for his college years.

"I'd be so elated," Graham said. "For sure it would be amazing. I've been talking to Iowa State a lot, as well, but honestly Chapel Hill is my dream school. I've grown up just loving it. A lot of my friends that are a grade above me, they're already going to Chapel Hill -- not playing football, but just students. So, I think it would be super cool to go to a school that's close to home, I can see my parents, and especially my parents would be able to come watch me."

Outside of Iowa State and UNC, Graham is hearing from James Madison and Vanderbilt. Each of those four schools has said that Graham at least has a preferred walk-on opportunity. 

"It would be cool for me to just get the offer from Chapel Hill and me say, 'I want to come here,'" Graham said. "I'm not somebody that's going to sit and collect my offers and see how many I can rack up. It's not a game for me. I want to go to the best school that's going to bring out the best in me."

Graham nearly skipped the camp that elevated him to the top of UNC's kicker recruiting board. Originally -- thinking that UNC wasn't in the market for a kicker -- he was slated to camp at Georgia on June 15. A midnight phone call the night before changed those plans.

"Anthony Giuliano, who works for Jamie Kohl, called me," Graham said. "He said, 'Hey, [UNC] is very serious in kickers. And I know that you're one of my best kickers, so I would love for you to be down there.' So I woke my parents up -- because Georgia was an afternoon camp, so we didn't have to leave earlier -- and I was like, 'Mom, can I please go to Carolina in the morning?' She was like, 'Okay.' So, we woke up at 3 in the morning and started driving down on two hours of sleep.

"Carolina was always my dream school, so Georgia didn't need to see me."

While Georgia missed out, Graham did make it -- with the proper sleep -- to camps at South Carolina and Tennessee.

As a junior, Graham was perfect on extra points going 42-of-42 for T.C. Roberson High School. He also converted 10 of his 14 field goal attempts, with a long of 48. On kickoffs, which Graham considers his strength, 39 of his 49 boots went for touchbacks. Of the 10 kickoffs that failed to reach the end zone, six were onside attempts.

Both Sailer Kicking and Kohl's Kicking, rates Graham as a five-star prospect. Sailer ranks Graham as the 10th best kicker in the nation, while Kohl sees him as the 17th.



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