"[Brandon Spoon] taught me swimming lessons before he came to UNC. I grew up watching him. He kind of inspired me to play [football]."
With accepting UNC's walk-on invitation, Spears, a 6-foot-2, 235-pounder from Chapel Hill (N.C.) East, turned down scholarship opportunities at Division II schools including Catawba.
Spears, who worked out under former UNC linebacker coach Tommy Thigpen at the Tar Heels' camp last summer, is looking forward to meeting with newly hired linebacker coach Art Kaufman.
"I'm going to ask him what he wants me to do – like what weight he wants me at or what speed he's looking for," Spears said. "And I'm going to train with Coach [Robert] Prunty."
Prunty, Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy's head football coach, has been training Spears in the offseason since he entered high school.
Spears strives to have a career at UNC like Durell Mapp, a walk-on who earned a scholarship and became a starter.
"Durell Mapp was the face of the defense a couple of years ago," Spears said. "That gives me inspiration, because he came in as a walk-on, also. Knowing that a walk-on can get up that high, play at that level, and be a starter on the team, I'm trying to do what he did."
Spears began his high school career at Hargrave Military Academy. Following his sophomore season, he transferred to Chapel Hill (N.C.) High to be closer to his parents.
Prior to his senior season, Spears transferred into East Chapel Hill. Three games in, he was moved from linebacker to defensive end.
"Playing defensive end actually worked out well," Spears said. "We were low on size on the defensive line. When I was playing linebacker I was getting double-teamed and triple-teamed almost every play.
"But then when they moved me to defensive end, I really impacted the team. I was able to take control of one side of the field."
Just when Spears got comfortable in his new position, his season ended with an ACL tear.
Spears ended his senior season with eight sacks in six games.
Spears, who is already walking without assistance, is expected to be close to 100-percent by the summer.
"My speed may be a little slow at first, but [getting back to full speed] shouldn't be a problem once I get out there on the field," Spears said.