Don Callahan/Inside Carolina

2018 UNC Target: Payton Wilson

UNC offered the in-state linebacker last week.

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. --- Nearby North Carolina was among the recent wave of scholarship offers for Payton Wilson. Besides proximity, the Orange High linebacker has a couple of ties to the Tar Heels.

Scouting Report

"I describe him as a rubber-band that's pulled tight all the time," Orange head coach Pat Moser said. "He has a motor that won't quit. He plays with a very high intensity. He's a big-time competitor and he has all the tools. You're talking about a kid who's 6-foot-4 1/2 and weighs about 220 pounds and runs a 4.6 forty. And he could play really anywhere on the field."

Prep Career

Wilson began his freshman year as Orange High's starting safety. During the playoff run that year, however, he was moved to linebacker.

The following August, Wilson broke his ankle in preseason camp. The injury forced him to miss all but the final five games of his sophomore year. When he returned, he continued to play linebacker finishing with 46 tackles.

This season, Wilson is leading Orange with 100 tackles -- nearly doubling the second tackler on the team. That has helped the Panthers post five shutouts, allow an average of less than four points a game, and end the regular season undefeated.

"The way we look at him, his side it's very hard for people to gain yardage," Moser said. "If you run at him, you're not going very far. And if you throw at him, there's a good possibility you're either going to get sacked or intercepted, because he can do both.

"That allows us to do somethings on the other side of the field -- some stunts or some slants or some other things."

Also this season, Wilson became an offensive starter, lining up at either running back or receiver. From scrimmage, he has accumulated 903 yards and eight touchdowns. Additionally, he's returned five punts for scores.

"He is to the point on our team right now where he really doesn't come off the field," Moser said. "We're using him somewhere all the time -- even special teams."


This past summer, Wilson camped twice at UNC, second of which was Fedora's Freak Show. Since then, Wilson and UNC have maintained a steady line of communication. Last week, that communication resulted in Wilson's sixth scholarship offer.

"[UNC] had asked me to get some more defensive clips," Wilson said. "So, I made just a defensive Hudl [highlight] and sent it to them. And they said that they really liked that I made the effort to make a clip just for them. 

"[The offer] is an honor. It's really exciting. They're right up the road and it's always good to be nearby when you're playing so your family can come watch. It being local, you won't get homesick."

Shortly thereafter, Big Ten programs Maryland and Penn State offered bringing Wilson's total to eight. Appalachian State, East Carolina, NC State, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest had offered previously.

"As his film gets out and people are seeing what he can do, then it's becoming very hectic," Moser said. "I think he would have probably received these offers last year had he been able to play."

After this football season, Wilson plans to sit down with his family and construct his recruiting process attack. He guesses a commitment will occur at the end of this school year or early in his senior year.

Wilson's older brother, Bryse, originally signed with UNC's baseball program. However, he decided to take the professional route when the Atlanta Braves drafted him in the fourth round.

In addition to his older brother, Wilson played recreation ball with UNC pledge Jonah Melton. Wilson also believes a branch on his family tree connections him and Melton.

Wilson doesn't claim any favorite schools, but admits UNC is in a great position.

"They're obviously in the running since I have a lot of ties with them and I have good relationships with the coaches," Wilson said.

The relationship between Wilson and UNC's coaches, specifically linebacker coach John Papuchis, began in earnest when he camped at the school prior to his sophomore year. 

"When I came back this past summer, [Papuchis] recognized me and that kind of meant a lot," Wilson said. "And then over that camp we continued to build that relationship and then during the Freak Show."

Wilson hasn't returned to UNC since this summer, but plans to be on campus Saturday for the Georgia Tech game. He has, though, attended games at Appalachian State, East Carolina, NC State, Penn State, and Wake Forest. He also hopes to visit Vanderbilt and Virginia this season.

According to Moser and Wilson, most schools are recruiting Wilson as an outside linebacker. Maryland, though, has brought up the possibility of playing him at either tight end or H-back, while Appalachian State has talked about defensive end.

Extra Points

Outside of football, Wilson wrestles and plays lacrosse for Orange. In wrestling, he finished second in the 220-pound weight class of the NCHSAA 3A Classification... Wilson's aunt is an East Carolina alumna... When he was younger, Wilson rooted for Duke, like his father and brother. Eventually, his allegiance switched to UNC, the school his mother cheers for.

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