I didn’t realize I could graduate early from Flowery Branch until Coach Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss’ head coach, said, ‘I believe you could go ahead and graduate and get up here.’ Until then, I wasn’t planning on graduating early. During Christmas break, I was at the North-South All-Star game and Coach Freeze called me and told me that he checked with my counselor and I could go ahead and graduate.
I didn’t have a real tough schedule, so I wasn’t doing too much at school anyway. So I figured it would be good to get out early. But also at the same time, I knew coaches like for kids to come in early. So I knew if I went ahead and graduated, it might open up some doors for me.
Like I said in my previous journal entry, I wasn’t really feeling Ole Miss – even though they wanted me to enroll early – so that wasn’t an option, early enrollment or not. I could have enrolled early at ECU, the school I was verbally committed to at the time, but something hit me at that point: I didn’t see myself going there. I liked the school, I liked the coaching staff, I liked the offense, but I just didn’t feel it in my heart. If I would have enrolled early, that would have closed the door on going anywhere else.
During my first week back from Christmas break was when I first heard from UNC. I was meeting with Ole Miss at Flowery Branch. When I was done meeting with them, I was walking through the hall and I saw coach Blake Anderson talking to my teammate C.J. Curry. My coach introduced us.
Coach Anderson watched my film and then my coach came and got me. Coach Anderson and I met in the office together. He told me that he was going to really start recruiting me. He was straight up with me, he said, “There’s a kid who is about to be enrolling on Monday, but he is also considering some other places.” He said, “If he enrolls, it’s done – that’s the quarterback I’m taking. But if he doesn’t, we’re going to start recruiting you.”
Growing up a UNC fan, I was hoping that things would work out to where UNC would be my home. I was real excited, but I also knew not to get too excited. I didn’t tell anybody, because there wouldn’t have been anything if that kid would have enrolled.
After that conversation with Coach Anderson, I didn’t follow what was going on at UNC. I was talking to other coaches, to be honest. That whole week we had Ole Miss, Clemson, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame come by.
The next week, Coach Anderson called me from some clinic in Texas. He said that he had talked to all the coaches and they were about to watch my film. And he told me that Patton Robinette had left and they needed to sign a quarterback.
That coming weekend, I was scheduled to officially visit East Carolina. On my way to ECU that Friday, I stopped by North Carolina to meet coach Larry Fedora and Coach Anderson. I wasn’t there long at all – it had to be an hour at most. Coach Fedora just talked to me about coming there, telling me about the offense, we talked about family, and his faith. I hadn’t met Coach Fedora before, so I was just getting to know him.
That visit to UNC on my way to ECU made me feel like I was cheating on my girlfriend. I knew that if I would have told East Carolina about that, they wouldn’t have been too happy. But at the same time, this is my decision and I had to do what was best for me.
When I got to East Carolina, I thought ‘This is my East Carolina official visit, so I owe it to them to clear my mind and see if I can see myself going to school there.’ At this point, I didn’t have a UNC offer. So I did all the stuff you do on an official visit. At the end of the visit, I just couldn’t really see myself there. I have so much respect for those coaches that it was difficult feeling that way.
The ECU coaches knew other schools were coming after me and they said they wouldn’t want it any other way, because they would be questioning me if schools weren’t looking at me. They were glad to hear that all these other schools were looking at me.
The Monday after my ECU official visit, Coach Anderson and Coach Fedora came to my school and watched me throw. They came to my house and within the first few minutes Coach Fedora offered me. When he said that, I just took a deep breath because the last few weeks had been crazy, but I didn’t commit right away. I wanted to talk to them and I had to de-commit from ECU. They were asking me questions just getting to know me. They were asking me how I would handle certain situations. I told them that I would be the hardest worker and wanted to win championships and I was a leader on and off the field.
At the end of the in-home visit, Coach Fedora said, “You know, Kanler, we don’t have much time. You’re our guy, but we have to be yours too. If we’re not, we’re going to go out and recruit other quarterbacks starting tomorrow because we have to have a quarterback this year.” So I told them that there was a Tar Heel in my heart and I wanted to go there and be a Tar Heel. But before I could commit, I would have to call East Carolina and de-commit. When they left the house, I called ECU and then committed to UNC.
I would have enrolled at UNC in the spring if I could have, but when I committed (on Jan. 16) it was too late. So now I’m enrolling in May for the first summer semester.