Football Recruits: Leave your hats on

In 1999, Nick Maddox changed his hat from baby blue to garnet and gold. North Carolina is on a mission to keep high-profile recruits like Maddox at home.

Joe Cocker had a song memorialized in the movie 9 1/2 Weeks. The title of the song is, "You can leave your hat on."  There were a lot of people that wished Nick Maddox had left his UNC hat on when he announced his collegiate choice.


On February 3, 1999, Nick Maddox held a press conference in his hometown of Kannapolis, North Carolina.  It was national signing day, and Maddox had waited until that day to make his collegiate choice known. 


Maddox, a Parade All-American, set all sorts of school records at A.L. Brown and still holds a state high school record in North Carolina for touchdowns – 114.  He rushed for 102 yards in the NC/SC Shrine Bowl on 10 carries.  Maddox had lots of offers from major colleges, as one might expect.


As signing day neared, the word that his decision was coming down to two choices– Florida State or North Carolina.  No one outside of Maddox's inner circle knew what choice he would make.  UNC coaches and fans were hopeful, but knew the outcome was uncertain.

Maddox was wearing a UNC hat as he entered the press conference.  Maddox then said he was going to disappoint a lot of people in the room.  As he did, he changed hats.  The hat he put on bore the colors of garnet and gold. 


Maddox was a Seminole.

North Carolina football recruiting fans were crushed.  One of our own had left the state to play for the ACC heavyweight everyone was trying to catch.  UNC recruiting fans to this day are still somewhat bitter about the episode.


A number of reasons could have influenced Maddox, but one of the pitches undoubtedly used to lure Maddox to Florida State was that he would be the only running back recruited that year.  The implication was that after biding his time, he would become the starter.


Last season, Maddox was moved to wide receiver.  UNC recruiting fans noted the irony that Maddox was just another one of what seemed an inexhaustible supply of wide receivers at FSU instead of a featured tail back. 


His career as he entered his junior campaign was nothing to write home about.  In his first two seasons, he had but one touchdown to his credit, which ironically – and perhaps pointedly -- came late in the fourth quarter against North Carolina last season.


The Sporting News said that Maddox was overrated after his first two years in Tallahassee. 


This season, Maddox got the starting call at running back – but to get the nod Coach Bobby Bowden had to overrule his offensive coordinator, son Jeff, who preferred the more powerful Greg Jones.  Senior Davy Ford, who was competing for playing time with Maddox and Jones, recently suffered a knee injury. 


Coach Bowden must still know a thing or two.  In two games, Maddox is averaging 7.7 yards per carry, 65.5 yards per game, ranks third in the ACC in all-purpose yards with 138.5 per game, and has doubled his previous number of touchdowns with two scores in two games.  He also returns punts for the Seminoles and is third in the conference in that category, averaging 11.8 yards a return. 


The coaches and the players at UNC are likely to have a lot more on their minds this Saturday than Nick Maddox.  The Tar Heels have started the season at 0-3, and are more focused on dealing with their own problems than a recruiting miss that happened three years ago.


Ken Browning is the only remaining member of the coaching staff that recruited him at North Carolina.  It is unlikely that North Carolina, as a team, harbors any special animus towards Maddox, since they never played with him.  Tar Heel juniors Sam Aiken and Michael Waddell did participate on the same North Carolina Shrine Bowl team with Maddox, and other current players probably recall him from high school days and recruiting visits. 


Those who follow UNC football recruiting are not so numerous that a cascade of boos should be expected to echo down on Kenan Stadium when number 20 for FSU takes the field on Saturday.  Maddox will likely receive the same amount of attention from the North Carolina coaches and players as he would if he were from California

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