SHELBY, N.C. --- Just as the four-star 2018 prospect has done previously, Dax Hollifield had planned to traverse the country this summer visiting colleges. That didn't happen.
"I didn't go anywhere really this summer," Hollifield said. "I've only been to UNC and Virginia Tech this summer. I was planning on going up north, but I couldn't do it; I didn't have enough time."
Last football season, Hollifield, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker from Shelby High, attended games at Clemson, Georgia, NC State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest.
It's not an accident that UNC and Virginia Tech were Hollifield's two lone summer stops.
"I'm probably going to [commit] to either one of those two schools," Hollifield said. "Maybe South Carolina [has a chance]. But Virginia Tech and UNC are the top two. Tennessee, I got an offer from them, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to go there. I want to stay really close [to home]."
Despite having a clear top two, Hollifield's decision timeline hasn't been sped up. If anything, the path has become more arduous.
"Those two, I couldn't make a decision right now," Hollifield said. "I do not know. That's why I'm going to go until the last minute."
Thus, Hollifield continues to stare at a January '18 decision.
In the meantime, game visits will be a crucial tool in breaking the tie between UNC and Virginia Tech.
"I like the atmosphere of places," Hollifield said. "I like to see how their atmosphere is on game day. That's going to be a part of [my decision]. I like big-time football. I don't want to go somewhere where they don't really care about football. I want to go somewhere big-time."
For the 2016 season, Hollifield's summer theme will be replicated.
"Virginia Tech and UNC, that's probably where I'm going to be most Saturdays," Hollifield said. "UNC hosts Virginia Tech, I'll probably go to that. I like going to those games. I went to the Virginia Tech-UNC game last year."
Hollifield, who says he'll attend no fewer than three UNC home games, also would like to be in Kenan Stadium for the UNC-NC State game. But that's unlikely since the game will be held on Friday, Nov. 25, the day of the NCHSAA regional semifinals. Shelby has won the past three NCHSAA 2A Championships and will arguably field its best team this season.
The only definite game visits on Hollifeld's calendar are the Virginia Tech-Miami Thursday night match-up on Oct. 20 and the Penn State "White Out" game against Ohio State the following Saturday.
Hollfield's summer visit to UNC was for Fedora's Freak Show. Begrudgingly, he watched while others participated in the event.
"I had some tennis shoes on and I told 'JP' [linebackers coach John Papuchis] I wanted to do the broad jump," Hollifield said. "I wanted to go out there and do it all really, but [Shelby head coach] Coach [Lance] Ware didn't want me to do it. I had already been cramping up that day. It was really hard to watch.
"You can ask Coach Ware, I want to do every snap. He gets mad at me, because I get pouty when he takes me out and I'll sneak in on reps. I want to play all the time -- I never want to sit out and watch."
Hollifield's absence -- or Ware's forbidding -- is excusable when his schedule that day is considered. He woke up at 6 a.m. to catch the team bus headed to Charlotte for the second day of the Cam Newton 7-on-7 tournament. His team was eliminated from playoff play around 4 p.m., at which point he and Ware immediately headed for UNC. Once in Chapel Hill, they met up with Hollifield's father, Aubrey, who was working a basketball camp.The trio remained in town until the Freak Show concluded.
"It was a really long day," Hollifield laughed.
Despite the plethora of major 2017 prospects also on campus, Hollifield felt like a priority throughout his UNC stay.
"I spoke to all of [the UNC coaches]," Hollifield said. "They don't want to be like recruiting me -- they want us to be like friends. They don't want to make this thing all about football -- they want to make it about family."
In particular, Hollifield spoke the most with area recruiter Gunter Brewer, defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, head coach Larry Fedora, and Papuchis.