Up Close: Mike Mason, Part II

<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 -- the second installment on Mike Mason.

ROCKY MOUNT -- North Carolina football commitment Mike Mason is an ambassador for UNC recruiting. He often attempts to persuade fellow prep standouts to choose the Tar Heels.

"I try to talk to them and find out their best decisions," Mason said. "I try to put in some good words for North Carolina."

Mason's most recent project is highly coveted senior Isaiah Thomas, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive tackle/offensive guard at Winston-Salem Carver.

"Isaiah Thomas wanted to go to Tennessee, but I told him that Carolina's graduation rate is higher than Tennessee's," Mason said.

The Tar Heels can use all the help they can get in landing Thomas, who recorded 43 tackles as a junior. Yellow Jackets' head coach Keith Wilkes says he has more potential than one of his former players – Ray Agnew.

Thomas is currently undecided.

Academics are the primary reasons for Mason's decision. There are many schools that have excellent scholastic and athletic programs, but he says North Carolina is one of the few that offers both.

Mason hopes to attend the Kenan-Flagler Business School one day soon.

"I want to go to school and major in business, and Carolina is in the top five in the nation for business schools," Mason said.

He is set to enroll at UNC this January and is focused on playing wide receiver for the Tar Heels as a true freshman.

"I think it's real important because I can go in there and be ahead of all the freshmen," Mason said. "Sam (Aiken) is leaving and (Chesley) Borders is leaving, so they're going to need a big-play person.

"(The UNC coaches) told me they think I can step in there and play that role, and they thought it was a good idea to graduate early, because I can get bigger, stronger and faster, and know the offense."

Rocky Mount head coach John Hammett is most impressed with Mason's determination to succeed and his dedication to be the best.

"He's a great competitor, and that has shown through his off-field work," Hammett said. "He never misses a workout."

Mason even turned down a chance to go to Disneyworld last May, so he wouldn't miss the first week of Hammett's weight training camp.

"Some friends of his were going to take him and he was going to go with them, but he stayed," Hammett said. "That says to me what a competitor he is."

All along, Hammett had little doubts of what school Mason would choose.

"Mike grew up loving Carolina," Hammett said. "He pretty much knew where he wanted to go if he got that opportunity. He painted his room Carolina Blue as a sophomore -- way before he was being recruited. He made the decision very quickly."

"When Notre Dame, Virginia and Michigan start contacting you – that makes your head spin," Hammett said. "Pretty much everybody called and started inquiring about him. He did really well in the summer camps and all that publicity made him think that, ‘Maybe I should look around and see.' But he said, ‘I know where I want to go to school and if you take football out of it, that's where I want to go.'"

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