Payton Wilson, the No. 2 outside linebacker in the country, said he had narrowed his college finalists to Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
About two weeks ago, Wilson said, he sat down with his family and chose UNC.
“I’ve always had a feel for UNC,” Wilson said Monday. “I really liked it.”
He added that UNC defensive coordinator John Papuchis was his favorite coach.
Wilson, a 6-4, 225-pound three-sport athlete, committed to the Tar Heels Monday afternoon at a press conference at Orange High School, where he is a junior.
He is the No. 3 overall prospect in the state in the class of 2018 and No. 84 overall in the country, according to 247sport.com’s composite rankings.
Wilson racked up 127 tackles, 39 tackles for loss and 13 sacks during his junior football season, according to MaxPreps.com. He also ran back five punts for touchdowns.
“He’s not just an athlete, he’s a football player,” Orange High football coach Van Smith said. “He can read things that you just can’t teach. And that’s just on the defensive side of the ball. On the offensive side of the ball, the same way. He can do anything. There’s nothing he can’t do on the football field.”
Wilson also wrestles and plays lacrosse. Wilson finished this past wrestling season with a perfect 43-0 record, and won the 3A state title in February.
Wilson was one of the most highly sought-after recruits in the country this year. He was offered scholarships to top football programs. Coaches texted him throughout the day and Wilson would try to answer them during his lunch period.
His father, Chad Wilson, said the recruiting process had become overwhelming for his son.
“One day he had 170 unread text messages from colleges,” the elder Wilson said. “Different ones.”
Wilson last month narrowed down his choices to UNC, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Clemson.
The gymnasium at Orange High was filled with students, faculty and some Hillsborough residents, who were curious to hear Wilson’s decision.
“Small town, word travels, everybody knows everybody, everybody was looking forward to this day waiting for his commitment,” Smith, his high school coach, said. “I think everybody anticipated it might be with the Tar Heels. The past 10 to 12 years the top talent has been leaving our state going to other schools across the country. It’s just good to see some of our better talent stay local.”
Wilson said he plans to enroll at UNC early, by January 2018.
Now that Wilson has committed, he said he wants to do some recruiting of his own. He said he wants to persuade Green Hope wide receiver Jordyn Adams, also a four-star prospect, to also commit to UNC.
“They’re going to be my teammates, and I want them to be the best,” he said. “I’m going to try to get some of the best guys in North Carolina to join me.”