Yates Anxious to Compete

North Carolina 2006 signee T.J. Yates says he's never really had to compete for a position on sports teams at the high school level. After turning down a basketball scholarship, he welcomes the chance to earn future playing time versus a rapidly improving talent pool of UNC quarterbacks.

And the recent verbal commitment of highly touted Mike Paulus for '07 has only hastened his desire to graduate from Marietta (Ga.) Pope and enroll this summer at Carolina.

"That didn't bother me at all," Yates said on the addition of Paulus. "It didn't scare me or anything like that. Having been around Cam Sexton and Joe Dailey up there, I've got a feel for what it's going to be like.

"I just can't wait to get high school over with."

After leading the Greyhounds to the state basketball playoffs, Yates has decided against spring sports in order to focus completely on football.

"I've been working out five days a week and going through speed training," Yates said.

The UNC coaches stay in some manner of regular contact with Yates, especially UNC assistant Tommy Thigpen, who is expected to join him for lunch next week.

At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Yates had basketball scholarship offers from smaller colleges – a route he appeared headed down until blossoming into one of Georgia's top prep quarterbacks as a senior.

Thigpen was the first to get wind of Yates' emergence, prompting him to invite other members of the coaching staff to join him at Pope for a game just prior to the Tar Heels' 2005 season opener at Georgia Tech.

With no knowledge of the UNC coaches in attendance, all Yates did was pass for over 350 yards and five touchdowns. He would go on to first-team All-Region honors, completing 160-of-289 passes for 2,305 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for 292 yards and seven scores.

"T.J.'s got all the tools and all of the intangibles you look for in a quarterback," Pope coach Bob Swank said. "He's a competitor and he's just uncanny with his accuracy. Then his ability to get himself out of trouble.

"He can do it all. He can throw, he's smart and he's tough. He's everything you look for in a quarterback."

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