“I want to start off by thanking everyone, my teammates, my coaches, everyone at UNC for the opportunity to come here and do what I did and be able to play at the University of North Carolina. I wouldn’t change one thing. That being said, I had to make the toughest decision of my life to go ahead and move forward and declare for the NFL Draft. It’s a dream come true in itself. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, to not only play at North Carolina but to also be able to take the next step. I’m just looking forward to the next chapter and I can’t wait to get to work.”
Would your decision have been different if you had more of a supporting cast in place for next year?
“It might have, but honestly, it didn’t play that much of a factor because I know we still have a lot of talent coming back at the University of North Carolina. It was more about me making a decision that’s best for me and my family and my future going forward. I just feel like at this time right now this is my opportunity to jump on this and take the next leap to the NFL. I’ve got all of the faith in the world in the guys coming back. If I came back, I know we could have done great things, but I feel like this is my chance, so I’ve got to take it.”
Can you explain the process you went through the last couple of weeks in making this decision?
“After the Sun Bowl, I really just wanted to take a couple of days for myself and not think about anything, not think about the decision and just clear my mind and try to see where my heart was at. My mom was kind of getting annoyed and she was like, ‘okay, you’ve got to make a decision.’ So I started talking to a lot of people, my high school coaches, Coach [Steve] Trivisonno, my quarterback coach, Coach [Nes] Janiak, from high school. I talked to my coaches from UNC, Coach Fedora, Coach Heckendorf and Coach Kap. I talked to some of my best friends, whose opinions mean a lot to me. I really did a lot of research on what my numbers are, how I compare to other people, and I tried to take everything [in]. I did a lot of research, did a lot of prayer and reflection, and after talking with Coach Janiak, my quarterback coach, I just really felt that this is what I had to do. It felt right in my heart. If it didn’t feel right, no matter what the circumstances, I wasn’t going to do it.”
Did you go back and forth during this process?
“Absolutely. It was definitely back and forth up until the end when I really felt strongly about and felt really good about making my decision. There would be some days where I would feel like I was leaving, and then I’d wake up the next day and be like, ‘maybe I need to come back, I want to come back.’ It was back and forth and it was a tough decision because North Carolina is so close to my heart. It’s going to be tough not being able to come back, but this is what I need to do for my career.”
You mentioned before the bowl game that one of the pulls to come back might be your long-term development, the difference in getting to the NFL and sticking there for a long time. How much of this decision that you feel like you’re ready or that it’s an opportunity that you cannot pass up due to your stock being so high?
“That’s critical. Coach Fedora and Coach Heck have done a great job of getting me prepared up to this point and helping me have the season I’ve had. Even though I’ve only started for one season, I feel like I’ve been prepared enough that I’m ready to take this next step.”
Was there a feeling that you couldn’t turn this down because your stock was as high as it was going to get?
“Think long term with my development, that’s something that definitely went into my thought process. The best way for me to take the next step as a quarterback and prepare if I want to have a long-term NFL career is to take this opportunity to jump right in and start to learn NFL offenses and really take that next leap and grow. I know I could have come back to North Carolina and they would have prepared me and got me ready for next year, but I feel like since this opportunity is here, the best opportunity for my career is to take the next step and develop and get ready for the NFL this way.”
What’s your plan moving forward?
“I’m going to sign with Rep1 Sports and Bruce Tollner out in Irvine, California. I’ll be training out here. Our strength trainer is Ryan Flaherty and my quarterback coach is going to be Ryan Lindley. I’ll be getting all of my workouts out in California, so I’m pretty excited about that.”
What are some things that you know you need to work on?
“That’s something that we’re going to talk through going through this process Just off the top of my head, I would say to continue to work on footwork in the pocket, preparing for NFL defenses and the terminology of NFL schemes, so I think jumping into that will be huge for my development.”
When did you finally make your decision?
“Last Friday. I felt pretty good about it on Friday. I talked it over with my family. They were all agreeing that the way I felt was a great idea and would be best for my career. I slept on it a couple of days and then prayed about it and then just yesterday I decided to talk to the coaches and make it official and move forward.”