Up Close: Jon Hamlett

<I>IC</I> recruiting writer Andy Britt is touring the countryside to visit each and every UNC football commitment. Look for his unique two-part profiles all season long. Today – tight end Jon Hamlett.

FOREST, Va. – North Carolina football commitment Jon Hamlett grew up just 75 miles from Charlottesville, Va. His coach at Jefferson Forest High School is Terry Smith, who played outside linebacker at Virginia Tech and later served as a graduate assistant at Virginia. Heck, Forest's team nickname is the Cavaliers.

But Hamlett, who's grandfather was a offensive tackle at UNC and used to open holes for Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice, decided to leave his home state and play football for the Tar Heels.

"UVA still sends me things, but they're not going to try to pull me that way," Hamlett said. "I sent a message out saying where I'm going to go, so they're not going to mess with me."

Despite his lineage, it was Smith who had a major influence on Hamlett's decision to come to Chapel Hill.

"I coached with Coach (Andre) Powell and Coach (Gary) Tranquill at Virginia, and I have always known Kenny (Browning) – everywhere I've been, I've talked to him," Smith said. "I told them during my first year here, that I knew Jon really liked Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech."

After looking at all the options, Smith told Hamlett that his chances for playing time would be best at Carolina. He said since senior Zach Hilton and junior Bobby Blizzard will be gone, the tight end position should open up.

"Coach (John) Bunting told me that I need to be ready to play, because they are graduating Zach and that will leave just Bobby," Hamlett said. "They might move (Brian) Chacos to defense.

"They will be pretty thin (at tight end)."

Smith likened Hamlett's choices to those made in a grocery store.

"If you have already have three cans of beans, you're not going to buy another can of beans," Smith said.

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Hamlett caught two passes for 50 yards and a touchdown in Forest's 56-6 season-opening win over Staunton River. The Cavaliers then improved to 2-0 after defeating Martinsville Friday night, 27-20. Forest begins conference play in the Region III-AA Seminole District Sept. 27 against Franklin County.

Forest senior fullback Stevie Ray is also being looked at by Carolina. He visited Duke and NC State last week. He has made official visits to Marshall and Appalachian State as well, but has not yet received a Division I scholarship offer.

"Coach (Andre) Powell really likes him a lot," Smith said.

"Everybody is talking about us now," Hamlett added.

As a junior, Hamlett caught 22 passes for 355 yards and a touchdown. He also plays linebacker.

"It's making him a better athlete overall," Smith said.

Hamlett played basketball at Forest and is a force inside at the prep level.

"Jon's so big and takes up so much room, usually we just let him rebound and everybody else goes out," one opposing coach said.

Hamlett spent a lot of time in Chapel Hill where he would attend basketball camps as a child. He also goes to every Carolina home football game.

"It's like a small town and the people are so nice," Hamlett said. "I just love it there."

He was in Kenan Stadium for North Carolina's watershed 41-9 victory over Florida State last season. Hamlett's commitment is evidence of the boost the win had on the Tar Heels' recruiting efforts.

"I was down there on the field before the game with all the hype and stuff," Hamlett said. "It seemed like Carolina didn't pay any attention to it. I've always wanted to go there, but after that game, I really wanted to go there."

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow ...

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