He recruited me when I was coming out of high school in 1992 and to this day, he still sends birthday cards to not just me, but also to my wife. He has an incredible memory.

There are lots of different aspects to recruiting, but in the end, there still has to be that human element and face to face interaction. It comes down to when you meet someone, do you feel like they are a genuine person? Mack was always the best at that. When you spent time around him, you felt good about yourself. He made me feel like I was part of his family.

There are lots of ways to leave that feeling with someone you meet. As someone who recruits young men to play for North Carolina now, I know you want to leave a prospect with a sticking point—something that stays with them when you’re not in front of them anymore. It’s not a coincidence that your favorite food happened to be on the menu or your favorite music was playing when you walked through the door. You’re always thinking about how you can make a kid remember your name when you’re not with them anymore. Mack Brown was one of the best I’ve ever seen at that.

In addition to learning from Coach Brown, I learned quite a bit from guys like Donnie Thompson and Ken Mack. They taught me how to evaluate players. They taught me to pay attention to high character guys who are super talented, even if they’re playing out of position. Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter didn’t play linebacker in high school. But you have to be able to project what they’re going to do in college. Maybe you know they’re not a quarterback at the next level. But if they’re a super athlete and extremely talented, you can find a place for them. You want guys who love the game of football and play with a sense of purpose. There is an abundance of football players in this world. Our job is to find the ones who fit the culture we have at Carolina.

One of the hardest things about recruiting is that it’s all about human development. We don’t know for certain who will be the best player. Every sports league in the world screws that up occasionally. There were no star ratings when Natrone Means or Julius Peppers came along. Today we have to put a star rating on every single prospect, and if a kid is a two- or three-star, nobody cares. If they’re a four- or five-star they get treated like they’re Prada.

But no matter how many stars they have, you don’t really know what the kid will turn out to be until they get to campus. We don’t know until they get here how hard they’re going to work or how close they will come to their potential. That’s why we have to learn more about them than just their star rating. In the year 2018, a kid is going to tell you pretty much everything he does through his social media. Then my job is to do my homework. I have to watch the tape, and then I have to ask some of the hard questions. I have to talk to the school resource officer and the assistant coaches.

There are some kids who are traumatized when their recruiting is over because it can be like a drug to get all of that attention. Kids who can’t leave that behind can have a tough time in college. You hear a lot about certain players in college but are never quite sure how well they can actually play. I don’t hear that much about Myles Dorn but I see him all the time in the film room. He doesn’t get covered in the national media but he is highly skilled and he is committed to being a football player. That’s the kind of player I want to find for North Carolina.

This story appeared in the JUNE 2018 edition of Born & Bred