Stephenson to visit UNC in Dec.

Most hardcore NFL football fans recognize, or at least remember the name Dwight Stephenson. However, North Carolina is not after the former Miami Dolphins center and Hall of Famer. Instead, the Tar Heels want to land his son, Dwight Stephenson, Jr.

The 6-2, 220-pound senior defensive end just finished his season for Del Ray (Fla.) Pope John Paul II High with a loss in the playoffs, and now he is setting up official visits.

Stephenson is scheduled to take an official visit to UNC on the weekend of Dec. 6, the same weekend that the basketball team plays Kentucky in Chapel Hill.

He will also take official visits to Florida, Tennessee, Boston College and Washington.

"First, I'm just looking for a place to set me up for later in life," Stephenson said. "You can't play football forever. I am also looking for a place where I can play; I don't want to sit on the bench the whole time. I'm looking for a good program, too."

At this point Florida leads for his services, but that is in part due to the fact that Stephenson is located close by and has had a chance to see a game there and meet with the coaching staff.

"I think Florida (leads), but not by much," he said. "I am still really open. It's the only program that I have really seen a few times."

Stephenson found out about UNC from his high school coach Dave Dunn. He also followed the Tar Heels during Julius Peppers' career. He said Peppers is his favorite player.

"I watched him a lot and I model the way I play after him. He got me into UNC football. I play just like him. If I look at something he does; I just want to try to do it."

Dunn said he first saw the UNC campus when he was coaching at Harvard and came to do research and visit his parents, who live in Chapel Hill.

"After having seen the campus, I recommended he look. It's as nice a campus as I have ever been on. I used to talk to coach (Kenny) Browning when I was doing research there. A lot of the big stadiums are just not on campus anymore, and the football facilities there are second to none. I just told him I would visit UNC."

Stephenson, who took an unofficial visit to Florida, had verbally committed to the Gators earlier this year but has since pulled back from that and is now open to leaving the Sunshine State.

"He is going to take his visits before deciding," Dunn said. "I think he has kind of changed a little bit (on staying in Fla.), because he got more exposed to the outside world since then."

Stephenson said he had heard great things about UNC.

"I heard that it's beautiful, and that they have wonderful facilities. It's a place where an athlete can grow. I know they are struggling now, but I know they are hoping to do something special in the future there."

Dwight Stephenson, Sr. is not pressuring his son to go to any particular school. In fact, Jr. says dad has told him he is a man and he is capable of making his own decisions now.

"He just has given me advice along the way, but he is letting me make my own decision. He is helping me to make good decisions about picking a school, but I am the one who will have to go to there."

The younger Stephenson said having an NFL Hall of Famer for a dad is not a burden.

"It's just something to work toward (the Hall of Fame); if he can make it I can too. It really gives me something to work for. If he was the best, then I think with hard work I can be too."

Dunn said that Dwight, Sr. has made sure that the decision is not made by him.

"His dad has really left it to him. He told him that he is a man and he can pick where he goes. I would say mom is more into it than dad. Dad is not influencing his decision at all. With the schools he has to choose from, I told Dwight, you are not going to make a bad choice. That is pretty much it."

Dunn added that Stephenson has inherited some of the skills that made his dad a great player.

"He obviously has great bloodlines. I'm impressed with the kid -- he runs a 4.5 forty, he has power cleaned over 300 pounds before. He is just a tremendous athlete -- good looking kid -- what a football player should look like."

Stephenson has played fullback, tailback, defensive end, linebacker and a number of other positions for his high school this season.

Stephenson, a three-year starter, led his team in sacks and tackles for losses, and was the third leading rusher as a secondary ball carrier.

Dunn describes Stephenson as a versatile kid who will likely end up on the defensive side of the ball in college.

"His explosiveness -- he is faster than most linebackers and running backs he plays against. He plays weak side defensive end. On play away, his only job is to chase the ball down. At times this year, he would make a play and you would just be like, ‘Damn!' He made some huge plays in key situations this year."

Stephenson, who will wait until close to signing day to pick a school, said his favorite thing to do on the field is make big plays.

"I guess it's that moment when you make a play that no one else can make -- just making athletic plays. When you make the one that makes everyone stop; I just love that feeling. I love doing things that other people can't do."

Dwight Stephenson Stats:
Del Ray Beach (Fla.) Pope John Paul II High
DE/LB, 6-2, 220, 4.37 forty
Bench 315
Squat 405+ only works with that so he doesn't hurt his knees
Power Clean 300
GPA 2.9
Also plays basketball (power forward/Center) and is also a member of the weightlifting team and runs track at PJP.
Runs the 100, 200, 4X100, shot discus, long jump
100 – 10.9
200 – 22-23 range


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