Mullins: 'UNC Coaches Made the Difference'

WENDELL, N.C. --- Aleric Mullins almost ended up elsewhere. But the four-star lineman prospect will play his college football for North Carolina, capping an outstanding 2006 recruiting class for the Tar Heels.

Going into the Tennessee visit on the weekend of January 20th, the Volunteers appeared on the verge of landing the four-star lineman from East Wake (N.C.). But something happened on that visit to modify his list of favorites.

Usually after the an official visit to an acknowledged leader the prospect will commit to the applicable school or more or less state that said school is the prohibitive favorite. This time however, the Vols fell from grace, as Mullins returned that week thinking UNC might be best for him, according to sources close to the situation.

The Tar Heels remained in the front of his mind for several days along with Tennessee and Auburn.

The weekend of January 27th, Mullins took his official visit to UNC. He spent Friday with coaches and players and even attended a UNC basketball practice to meet with Roy Williams and Tyler Hansbrough. On Saturday afternoon, Mullins attended the UNC basketball game against Arizona.

"It was a great game and the fans and students gave me a lot of love -- too much love," Mullins said, embarrassed. Following the game he was joined by UNC commitment Deunta Williams for a night on Franklin Street.

"That was my first time on Franklin Street at night," Mullins said. "It was crazy, but crazy in a good way."

Of course, mixed in with the fun was time spent discussing academics, meeting with coaches and academic counselors to discuss the support system for students at Carolina

"I spent some time with Octavus [Barnes] and the rest of the academic support folks," Mullins said. "They told me how they could help me get a degree at Carolina."

Mullins also spent plenty of time with the UNC coaching staff at North Carolina, and as it turned out, that time with them was what finalized the deal

Mullins returned home Sunday night thinking he'd choose UNC, but the phone calls kept coming and by Tuesday Auburn had made major in-roads.

However, the UNC staff kept plugging away.

"They told him about North Carolina and how UNC is a nationally known program," said East Wake coach Jimmy Williams. "Everyone knows that logo. A few more people like Al and they will be up there with the rest of them. How many close games were they involved with in the 4th quarter. I get the feeling that they are pretty close to emerge."

In the end, though, the decision wasn't about national exposure or even the campus -- it was about relationships.

"I decided at about 11:00 p.m. last night," Mullins said. "It was the coaches [at Carolina] that made the difference."

Mullins is coming off an impressive senior season in which he recorded 77 tackles, 21 TFL (totaling 87 yards) 6.5 sacks (for 48 yards), 9 QB pressures, 5 forced fumbles and 1 pass deflection.

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