Up Close: Mike Paulus, Part II

SYRACUSE, N.Y. --- The dynamic surrounding two brothers playing major college sports at rival schools is not unprecedented, but it certainly provides for interesting discussions around the family dinner table.

  • Part I

    It was there that the elder Greg Paulus – a basketball player at Duke – was instrumental in helping Mike solidify his decision to play football at North Carolina.

    "I was just being a big older brother trying to protect him," Greg Paulus said. "I kind of wanted Mike to be close to me and it's worked out well with him coming to North Carolina. I wanted to be a part of it because I knew I could help him out with the experience. I've always been there with him."

    "Greg has been real supportive," Mike followed. "When I came back from my visit to Southern Cal, I sat down to dinner with my family and I said, ‘I think it's going to be Notre Dame or North Carolina.' The first thing he said was that North Carolina was never going to be a football school."

    That exchange occurred on April 22, 2006, Paulus recollects. But Greg quickly changed his tune, and within a week Mike would take his brother's advice and commit to Carolina.

    "When that happened, Notre Dame was not going to offer me until May 1st," Paulus said. "The next day [Jimmy] Clausen committed, so I said, ‘OK, I'm going to North Carolina.'

    But Greg was the one I talked to the most about it. He was like, ‘Do you want to sit behind Mark Sanchez [at USC] for three years that far away from home? Because otherwise, if you can't do it, then Carolina is the place for you.'

    "Even when we switched coaches later that year, I asked Greg, ‘Should I take a visit?' And he said, ‘No, you're going to Carolina.' So I stayed committed the whole time. And when Coach [Butch] Davis came to the house and met everybody, I knew I was going there."

    Paulus, who will graduate in less than three weeks, has already acquainted himself with Chapel Hill through several lengthy visits, with Greg as his ambassador.

    "I like the area," Paulus said. "Walking down Franklin Street and hanging out with all of the guys, it just showed me, ‘Yeah, this was the right place the whole time.' Everybody is so friendly. Everyone is so nice and not just the football people. The campus, the facilities and all that are awesome.

    "There is so much to do on Franklin Street. Every night I went out with Greg, he said, ‘Let's go to Chapel Hill tonight.' It's the place to be. I hit the jackpot."

    Living in up-state New York during the sons' recruitments, the Paulus family wasn't so much aware of the rivalry between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. Now with an up-close view, they're all beginning to understand and embrace it.

    "It never came up along the lines of being a rivalry because the kids are playing different sports," father Dave Paulus said. "But don't think we haven't noticed that Greg is not the most welcome when he's in Chapel Hill. Hopefully it will be the same way for Mike when he visits Duke.

    "Those two guys each have a path to go down," he said. "Greg has begun his, and Mike will do the same thing. It's a small community and both schools are in each other's backyards, but there is a mutual respect there."

    Greg ended his senior year in high school with a state-record 3,677 passing yards and also set state marks with 152 career touchdown passes and 11,760 career passing yards. And although a top basketball prospect as well, some have questioned if his decision to give up the gridiron for the hardwood offered him the best opportunity at a professional career.

    Christian Brothers Academy coach Joe Casamento is amazed when he's watching Greg on TV and hears announcers discuss the topic: "Greg could have played (football) at any college, but when it came down to it…he told me he wanted to coach basketball one day. So I said, ‘Then why in the heck would you want to play football? Go do what you want to do. Don't live somebody else's dream. Live yours.'"

    Although Mike also enjoyed basketball success at the scholastic level, as a sophomore he made the decision to focus solely on football.

    "Mike is a high school basketball player; he's a college football player," Casamento said.

    Stay tuned for Part III tomorrow…

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