Up Close: Brian Gupton

NASHVILLE, Tenn. --- North Carolina 2007 football signee Brian Gupton is on a mission to earn respect.

Gupton and his coaches would like fans to know his UNC scholarship offer was not simply a courtesy or a device by which to land his teammate, Rashad Mason. The athletic wide receiver from Pearl-Cohn High School in Nashville, Tenn. insists he can impact the Tar Heels on either side of the ball.

"The hardest thing I've had to do in life is gain respect as a football player," said the 6-2, 190-pound Gupton.

Prior to his junior campaign, Gupton broke his wrist during preseason practice. He flew under the radar of most Division I schools primarily because he missed most of the season. However, he did return for the playoffs, making some big catches on offense as well as starring at safety for the Firebirds.

As a senior, Gupton caught 16 passes for 500 yards, while recording 30 tackles and picking off seven passes on defense.

"He would have probably had a lot more offers," Firebirds coach Tony Brunetti said. "People just don't really know who he is, but he's a phenomenal athlete. You don't average over 35 yards per catch if you're not something special."

Gupton, who boasts a 37-inch vertical, says he's not sure yet whether he'll be a receiver or a defensive back at UNC -- and he doesn't care. He said he just wants to help out any way he can. Considering the wealth of talented wideouts the Tar Heels secured on Signing Day to go with star rising sophomore Hakeem Nicks, Gupton said he realizes he'll likely play defense.

"Coming into the fall, I knew I needed him at corner," Brunetti said. "He was the only one I had that I knew was athletic enough to play corner. He has a big advantage sometimes because of his height, but he can also pick off a ball. I just look at his athleticism. When you can stand under a basketball goal and dunk [without a running start] with all of your clothes on, that will tell you something."

One offensive assistant coach at Pearl-Cohn said, "Brian is a better blocker than Rashad and every bit the athlete, but with Rashad's size and strength – he just has so much upside."

Gupton and Mason visited the UNC campus in between the fall and spring semesters and fell in love with the town and the Tar Heels' coaching staff.

"When I visited there were no students up there and I still had fun," Gupton said. "The coaches treated me like family. It was like you were going out to eat with your family."

Brunetti said he was impressed with Carolina's recruiting process and the coaches' overall integrity. He vows to keep lines of communication open with them regarding future Pearl-Cohn standouts for years to come. Constructing pipelines in the middle of SEC country and in the shadow of the University of Tennessee will benefit UNC now and in the future.

"You've got a coach in Butch Davis with a good track record of developing NFL talent as well as men," Brunetti said. "He's also taken a lot of kids you probably didn't know about before and turned them into great players."

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