Practice Tour: T.J. Thorpe

DURHAM, N.C. --- Although Jordan High School's offense will change somewhat this season, the main goal remains the same – get the ball in T.J. Thorpe's hands as much as possible.

"T.J. is going to be very important to what we do on offense," Jordan head football coach Mike Briggs said. "You may see him playing a little bit more than just receiver. We want to try to set up some situations where we can get the ball in his hands and let him do what he does best. He's a very good open-field runner with good balance."

With a change at offensive coordinator, Jordan will rely more on its rushing attack this season than it has in previous years.

"I'm not going to say I'm too happy about [running the ball more]," Thorpe said. "But the coaches here have a good idea of what they're doing – they're not going to just forget about me. I feel like they're going to find ways to get me the ball."

Sticking with the theme of getting the ball in his hands, Thorpe will continue to return punts and kickoffs this season. The 6-foot, 177-pounder broke the state single season record for most kick returns for touchdowns last season with five. The past two seasons, he has returned six kickoffs and three punts for scores.

"Especially in punt situations, just having him back there, I think is going to be to our advantage with field position," Briggs said. "A team has to either count on kicking it so deep or kicking it so high that everybody gets down there that [Thorpe] can't return it or the best situation is they kick it to the sideline, which when they do that, they're not going to get as much distance."

Thorpe will also likely start and see at least half of a game at free safety playing a "centerfielder" role.

"When the ball is in the air – it doesn't matter what side of the ball [Thorpe] is on – he thinks it's his," Briggs said.

In early March, Thorpe verbally committed to North Carolina. Despite the pledge, he's considering officially visiting other schools.

"You have five official visits," Thorpe said. "As much as I'm committed to UNC, you only get this chance once in a lifetime. And I highly doubt that anybody will wow me to the point to where it's a utopia over there that I just have to go over there. It's just nice to go out and see other campuses that I might not ever see again…At the end of the day, I think that I'll still be a Tar Heel… I'm really one of those people that sticks to his word."

Thorpe is looking into taking official visits to Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA, and Virginia, but has nothing scheduled.

"At this point and time, there's no other schools that I'm considering [officially visiting], because there's no other schools that have shown interest like those schools," Thorpe said. "… I'm not even sure I'm going to go to all those. But if I had to pick five schools [for official visits], that would be it."

Unofficially, Thorpe hopes to attend the Duke-Alabama game in Durham, as a fan.

"I just want to see Alabama play, to be honest with you," Thorpe said. "One, I like Julio Jones as a receiver, and rarely do you have the defending national champions in Durham. I might not be too welcome on the campus, but I think I'm going to go with Vad [Lee] as his guest."

Additionally, Thorpe may tag along with Lee to games at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. He also plans to attend almost every UNC home game.

Since committing, Thorpe hasn't visited any other schools. But he estimates making ten visits to UNC.

"When I have free time and not doing anything with my friends, I'll go up [to UNC], speak to them, shoot some pool – just show my face around there [and] make sure everybody still remembers who I am," Thorpe said. "… Most of the time when I have breaks [at Jordan], I'm there."

Despite his desires to visit other schools, Thorpe has been working hard recruiting several fellow recruits, most notably Demetrious Nicholson, Travis Hughes, and Curtis Grant. Thorpe is confident with two of his three main targets.

"Demetrious Nicholson and Travis Hughes will probably be the next two commits to UNC, I feel," Thorpe said. "They're probably bigger Carolina fans than I am. Those two have Carolina screen savers, pajamas – everything.

"Curtis Grant, I think, he'll probably go to the SEC. But [Nicholson and Hughes] are working on Curtis Grant to come to UNC with them."

When conversing with fellow recruits, Thorpe is often questioned about the ongoing NCAA investigation.

"Now, everybody is starting to see every school is starting to get investigated," Thorpe said. "It just so happens that UNC was the first…

"Honestly, it seems like it has nothing to do with the school, but the players' choice. It shows nothing of the character of the school and the coaches. From what I know and from what [the UNC coaches] told me, it has nothing to do with them [and] they didn't know anything – they know just as much as we do… It's like I tell [other recruits], it's nothing like a USC thing where you won't be able to contend for a bowl game."

During the spring and summer, Thorpe has attended several national recruiting events. Most recently he served as the lone North Carolina representative at the Gridiron Kings.

"It was an honor to be down there to showcase my talent," Thorpe said. "To be on TV was overwhelming.

"Everybody there was just as fast and big and strong… I had to actually think, run everything precise, and do everything clean so I can at least get open."

Thorpe helped the Southeast squad go undefeated and win the tournament.

"I felt like when I left there, it's not just about Florida," Thorpe said. "All the receivers there that were ranked in front of me, they're definitely below me now. I just want to let my play speak for itself." T.J. Thorpe Profile

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