"[North Carolina] was one of my top choices from the beginning," said Harrelson. "Just because I grew up in North Carolina and I've always was a big fan of them and the basketball team."
Harrelson moved to Chesapeake from Raleigh about eight years ago.
UNC's Tidewater Area recruiter Kenny Browning began to recruit Harrelson last October and verbally offered him a scholarship in December.
"He came down a few times to talk to my coaches and see what I look like in person," said Harrelson. "And then I started to receive mail. Coach sent them my tape and they liked it."
Harrelson, a 6-foot 180-pounder, fits the UNC criteria – on and off the field.
"They're looking for certain things," said Richard Morgan, Oscar Smith head football coach. "They're looking for guys that are accomplished and ready to play right away and come from quality programs. They wanted a bigger receiver that can run – he fits that mold; a big play receiver – which he is; and he runs great routes. Plus North Carolina likes to recruit quality kids with good character and certainly he fits that mold with his grades and the way he acts."
In addition to UNC, Harrelson also collected offers from Clemson, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Maryland, NC State, Virginia, and Virginia Tech.
During the spring, Harrelson attended junior days at Maryland, UNC, and NC State.
While at UNC, Harrelson was introduced to Butch Davis and wide receivers coach Charlie Williams. He also received his first look of the campus and the football facilities.
In early June, Harrelson participated in his only summer camp – UNC's one-day. He worked out exclusively with the wide receivers group and was tutored by both Williams and offensive coordinator John Shoop.
"It was exciting," said Harrelson. "They showed me what it would be like in college. They put me at ‘X' receiver, which I'll be playing when I get there. It was real fun."
In-between practice sessions, Harrelson and teammate Kerry Boykins sat down with Davis.
"He just told us his past history with his previous teams and how he's brought college receivers to the NFL," said Harrelson.
Following the camp, Harrelson publicly declared UNC his leader.
"After the camp, North Carolina was my favorite," said Harrelson. "Just because the coaches were cool, I liked the atmosphere that I saw, and I could see myself being there."
Sticking with his plan of a late summer verbal commitment, Harrelson began the decision making process by sitting down with his mother and head football coach and weighing the pros and cons of each of his options.
"We just go through a check list of all the things that you've got to consider," said Morgan. "Coaching staff, playing time, reputation of the school, campus life – all the things that go into making up the four or five years you're actually at a school. You take all those things into consideration, add them all up, and in the end when he added them all up, North Carolina came out on top.
"Plus, his gut feeling all along was North Carolina was the place for him. Since he went there to the camp, he thought that was the spot."
Harrelson made it official Thursday by calling Browning and pledging to UNC.
"For one, Butch Davis came in there, and I know he can turn the program around," said Harrelson. "And the atmosphere of the school is one of the best, as well as one of the top schools academically."
Harrelson's decision all but finalizes his recruitment.
"Oh, it's solid," said Harrelson of his commitment. "I'm not going to change my decision. No [I won't visit any other school], I'm content with North Carolina."
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow …