IC is bringing you the first in-depth coverage. Today, Mac Heffner delivers part one -- check back tomorrow for part two."> IC is bringing you the first in-depth coverage. Today, Mac Heffner delivers part one -- check back tomorrow for part two.">

Introducing Kahlif Mitchell, Part I

<i>Inside Carolina</i> introduces North Carolina target Kahlif Mitchell, of First Colonial (Va.), who has stayed under the national radar. Most UNC fans first learned of Mitchell on the message boards when he was listed as the mysterious "A" lineman prospect on the recruiting board. Now his name is out and <I>IC</I> is bringing you the first in-depth coverage. Today, Mac Heffner delivers part one -- check back tomorrow for part two.

Kahlif Mitchell, a 6-6, 280-pound lineman, is not your typical college recruit. Mitchell has clawed his way back academically, with hopes of being in a position to secure a Division I scholarship and a shot at a college education. Now with a lot of hard work and physical attributes that many athletes lack, he might just get what he has been after. But his long road back is far from over. Mitchell is still working to pull up his Grade Point Average, and is waiting to receive his SAT score.

He was scheduled to be in Chapel Hill for the Maryland game on an unofficial visit.


Mitchell didn't fit in when he first moved from New Jersey to Virginia. To be honest, he could not even understand some of the things people were saying.

"People were different -- the way they were talking -- the culture and all. But, after a year or so I got used to it," he said. "It was just different from up north where it was a faster pace. It was a nice change."

Mitchell's first high school in Virginia had its share of bad kids, fights and even some gangs. To say it was not the greatest neighborhood for Mitchell isn't a reach.

Mitchell's mom, Denise, had just moved him down south from the faster-paced life he'd grown accustomed to in New Jersey.

Mitchell didn't pass a single class, which led to him transferring to First Colonial.

First Colonial head football coach Sam Scarborough said Mitchell was a follower at the time, and not the leader he is now.

"He got his grades up when he came up here," Scarborough said. "The coaches here are younger and they know what it's like here -- most of them went here -- and he saw they cared about him. It got him doing the right things, when he could have been caught up in all the bad stuff late at night."

Mitchell said he knew his mother made the move for him, and he hasn't forgotten the things she has done for him.

"That is the biggest thing in my life -- it's her."

Denise Mitchell said her son didn't want to make the move in 1998. But he knew she was doing it to help both of them.

"When we first moved here, he was just trying to fit in," she said. "He was always taller than the other students. I don't think he got with the wrong crowd, I think he was trying to prove himself and show that he wasn't the type of guy that other students perceived him to be. The move to First Colonial was better, but he still had to fit in."

She knows football has had a major impact on her son's life.

"It gave him a place," she said. "He likes football and it keeps him focused. It gave him a comfortable position in school and he really wants to play."

Kahlif Mitchell said he started to see that football was important when he was in the eighth grade, after a coach told him where the sport could take him.

"I was a big guy and I used to get in a lot of fights," he said. "Then I had a talk about football with a coach and that is when I started to like it."


Mitchell just took the SAT a few weeks back and had hoped to get his scores back before he arrived in Chapel Hill for the Maryland game.

"I hope I did well, but I messed up and didn't bring a calculator," Mitchell said. "I think the verbal part would be the hardest part for me, but it didn't seem that hard. Math is my strong point."

That brings us to why Mitchell has not seen any offers come his way.

It's not that college coaches don't know about this kid – they certainly do. But when coaches scout players one element involved has to be minimum grades. According to Scarborough, Mitchell was impressive when he went to a one-day combine in May that hosts the top high school prospects in Virginia.

However impressed the coaches were by Mitchell athletically during a series of skills tests, he fell short of what most needed to see academically.

Mitchell started high school at a school that Scarborough said was not the best situation for him.

Mitchell had horrible grades and at that point his mother decided a transfer would be best for her son. With the transfer and mediocre grades, Mitchell was forced to sit out an entire football season.

But that year was something that forced Mitchell to improve academically. He took summer classes to catch up and regain eligibility. Now, Scarborough says that Mitchell is a B/C student, and he maintained a 2.6 GPA last year.

It might have been even higher had Mitchell not suffered a gall bladder attack during a five week summer session that forced him to miss two weeks of a Geometry class. He still earned a C in the course and was told by the teacher that had he not missed class, he would have earned at least a B and possibly an A.

"[UNC assistant] coach [Kenny] Browning knows he can do the work," Scarborough said. "He has been on the honor roll for the last year here, but his grades were just so low when he first got here."

Denise Mitchell was lucky enough to go to college for a couple of years but said she never finished. The obvious goal of graduating is a goal Kahlif and his mother hope he can achieve.

Mitchell would be the first in his mother's family to earn a college degree.

"With his degree he can go places, as opposed to just going to college and playing football," Denise Mitchell said. "We both know it's important."

He would be the third person on his mother's side of his family to even attend college.

"It makes my mother happy -- it lets her know she didn't move for nothing," Kahlif said. "Her goals were to get me through high school and college. This could be a big step toward it."

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part II, which includes comprehensive info on UNC's involvement with Mitchell and discusses his skills in-depth. ...

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