Jackson 'Loved Every Part' of UNC Visit

While visiting North Carolina late last week, Branden Jackson received the red carpet treatment from the Tar Heel staff.

"We got there and [primary recruiter John Blake] welcomed us with open arms," Jackson said. "We rode around on the golf cart with him most of the time. There was camp going on, so all the other kids were looking around and were like ‘Who are these guys?' It put a little smile on my face and made me feel important. It was just a good feeling, because he never left our side and introduced us to everyone."

Accompanied by his McKeesport (Pa.) teammate Delvon Simmons and assistant football coach Anthony St. Angelo, Jackson, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound defensive end, arrived at UNC on Friday morning and didn't leave until later that evening.

"We talked about football a little bit [with Blake]," Jackson said. "But [Blake] was really just trying to educate us on the school. He was just telling us ‘This is what we've done - this is what we've done before the new staff got here, and this is where we are now.' He talked about how important the education is there and how once you graduate with an education from there, the sky is the limit."

Part of seeing the school was a campus tour conducted by Blake himself.

"We got to see everything," Jackson said. "We got to see the entire campus. We checked out some dorms. We saw all the facilities. We went to the basketball museum – we learned a little bit about Michael Jordan's legacy there."

Jackson said he couldn't help but be impressed.

"The campus just really looks beautiful – it's just nice," Jackson said. "When you look at it, you're like ‘Wow.' It's like something out of a movie."

Jackson also admired the layout of the campus.

"I've been to Michigan, I've been to West Virginia, and [Pittsburgh]," Jackson said. "And their [campuses] are a little more spread out – classes-wise and facilities. With North Carolina – and I can also say Rutgers – their stadium is basically in the middle [of the campus] and everything is on the outskirts. But there's nothing too far – I think at North Carolina they told me maybe at most something would be a 15-minute walk."

Before ending their visit, Jackson and company met with Butch Davis in his office for approximately 30 minutes.

"He wanted to get to know what type of people we were, because he said he could tell what type of football players we were from film," Jackson said. "So we didn't really talk about football. We talked about life. We talked about where we came from, how we were raised – things like that. We talked about where he came from, what he's there to do, his time in the NFL, where the program was before he got there [and] where it is now. We talked about academics – the importance of that. Any questions we had, we got answered."

Friday's visit gave Jackson a different perspective on UNC.

"Growing up… you always hear about Michael Jordan going to North Carolina, so you're like ‘I want to go there because Michael Jordan went there,'" Jackson said. "Now that I've seen it, I would go to North Carolina not because of Michael Jordan, but because it's a great place."

Before his senior football season starts, Jackson plans to narrow his focus to five to seven schools.

"I'm starting to get a little bit of an idea now, but I'm not sure," Jackson said. "I've been thinking and thinking, and some schools are starting to separate themselves, but I haven't been able to get it all together."

Jackson says Iowa and Texas Tech will likely make the cut, because he wants to officially visit both schools. He added that UNC's chances are "just as good as anyone else's," including Iowa's and Texas Tech's.

"I basically loved every part of [the UNC visit] – I'm not going to lie to you," Jackson said.

Jackson and Simmons could be a package deal.

"We always joke around about going to the same [college]," Jackson said. "But this weekend on the way back [from UNC], for the first time we actually got serious. We were talking about ‘We could go to the same school – you're like a brother to me. We could maybe room together [and] take away a little bit of the social anxiety.'

"There's a huge possibility [that we could choose the same school]. But it's going to come down to where we both feel comfortable."

Besides comfort level, Jackson will focus on his relationship with the players, position coach, and head coach, and morals of the entire program.

Jackson said he has developed a strong relationship with both Blake and Davis.

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