Up Close: Erik Highsmith

VANCEBORO, N.C. --- Instead of leading the state in receiving his senior year, North Carolina verbal commitment Erik Highsmith could have just as easily been one of the top quarterbacks in the state.

"Erik was a great quarterback for us," West Craven head coach Clay Jordan said. "He could have been a great one."

As a freshman and sophomore on the junior varsity team, Highsmith, a 6-foot-2, 165-pounder, played quarterback. However, another promising passer in his class emerged – Brett Mooring, a strong-armed quarterback who would later start under center for North Carolina's Shrine Bowl squad.

"We had to get both of those kids on the field," Jordan said. "[Highsmith] could move to another position much easier than Brett could – that was the primary reason.

"Secondly, if you're going to throw the football and you got someone who could throw it, you've got to have a kid that can draw double-teams. We needed [the defense] to double [Highsmith] to be successful."

In his first season at the position, Highsmith recorded 58 catches for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught more passes and touchdowns than senior and go-to receiver Jimmy Gross.

"It was a learning experience," Highsmith said. "I have a good football IQ, so that helped."

Despite a solid campaign, Highsmith didn't receive much recruiting interest.

"He was under the radar because he only played receiver one year and he was still so raw," Jordan said.

To help boost his recruiting stock, Highsmith attended summer camps at Duke, East Carolina, UNC, and NC State. It was at UNC, though, that he made the biggest impression.

"I just came out there, they didn't know anything about me," Highsmith said of his UNC camp experience. "After the first route I ran, the coach was like ‘Dang, where did you come from.'"

"The day he camped at Carolina, they had two or three of their top recruits in camp. Coach [Charlie] Williams said to me after the camp, ‘Coach, [Highsmith] could play with any of those kids – we've got to get on him,'" Jordan said. "He had a great day up there."

Despite that great first impression, the UNC coaching staff didn't yet extend Highsmith a scholarship offer.

"[Williams] just told me I'm on top of their list and don't worry they're going to offer me pretty soon," Highsmith said.

For several months, UNC continued to recruit Highsmith. Throughout his senior season, Williams contacted Highsmith, weekly.

"A lot of the schools liked him, but Carolina just stood out, as far as just liking his ability," Jordan said. "The other schools kept recruiting him, but not as hard as Carolina."

In late October, shortly after receiving some of Highsmith's senior season highlights, UNC offered him a scholarship.

"Coach Williams was like, ‘How would you like to be a Tar Heel?'" Highsmith recalled. "And then he put Coach [Butch] Davis on the phone. I talked to him for a minute… And then I talked to almost the whole coaching staff."

Highsmith immediately jumped at the opportunity and verbally committed to UNC.

"I've liked UNC basketball, so it wasn't that hard of a step to UNC football," Highsmith said. "I know Deunta Williams and Bruce Carter used to play for Havelock and I also know Kevin Reddick.

"When I got my first letter from them, I started looking up what their school was about and I liked what I found out."

With his commitment behind him, Highsmith was able to focus all his efforts on West Craven's title run.

Erik Highsmith Profile

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