Don Callahan/Inside Carolina

UNC LB Commitment Payton Wilson is 'An Absolute Animal'

Inside Carolina went on location with Hillsborough (N.C.) Orange High head coach Van Smith to learn more about UNC's newest verbal commitment, Payton Wilson ...

What is UNC gaining in Payton Wilson?

"They're getting an absolute animal on the football field. The kid plays sideline-to-sideline. He's so fast, he's so long, he's got such range. Strength, speed, instincts -- he's got it all."

You use him all over the field on both sides of the ball. Positionally, where's his best fit on the college level?

"I think he'll be a linebacker. He's the type of kid that can play inside linebacker. If they bring in a big, heavy package of some sort [and the offense] spreads it out, he can go outside and they can guard man-to-man [and] he can play in space. He's so versatile with what he could do on defense -- and offense, too. 

"And who knows? Some coaches that came in looking at him openly said, 'He's going to play defense, but we might even have an offensive package for him.' Who knows what might happen -- he's so talented.

"But, defense is where his heart is, that's the mentality he has, and I think that's where he'll be."

When you spoke to UNC's coaches, what did they share with you?

"Over the past 10, 15 years the trend seems to be that the best talent in our state leaves our state. [UNC] was totally committed at any cost necessary that [Wilson] was going to stay in state -- he's going to be a Tar Heel. So, they've been on him hard. 

"It wasn't a difficult process for them. Payton grew up in the same county that the university is located in. Payton has been a Tar Heel fan since he was a little kid. So [the UNC coaches] just kind of had to roll it out there and let him do his thing."

Which UNC coaches were most active in attempting to keep Wilson in state? And what was their pitch?

"J.P. [John Papuchis], the new defensive coordinator, he came by several times. Coach [Mike] Ekeler, the new linebackers coach, he came by.

"And they just assured him their commitment to him; not only to come in to Carolina and possibly get some playing time as a freshman -- certainly a possibility on defense and special teams. They assured him an education -- you can't get a finer education than you can at the University of Chapel Hill -- and, of course all the support that goes with that. And of course, if it's his goal and dream to play beyond college at the next level, they are experienced and they can help him obtain that goal, too.

"We're watching the NFL Draft just last week and my wife is telling me, 'A few more years, we might see Payton walking across that stage.' If things progress as they could and the Good Lord is willing, there's no doubt in my mind we will."

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