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Why recruiting via helicopter can backfire

To make an obvious statement, there's no way to make a quiet entrance in a helicopter. That's kind of the point, after all. Helicopters offer an unmatched utility in recruiting, allowing coaches to hit multiple spots in one night far more efficiently than a car.

They're also a living metaphor. "I'm a big deal, this helicopter proves that," the message says -- no, screams over whirling blades -- "and if I, a VIP, am here to see you, it must mean you're a big deal, too."

That message can work wonders on a certain type of recruit, but it can backfire on others, as Dave Doeren explains below.

Back in 2017, both North Carolina and NC State were hot on the trail of Payton Wilson, a 4-star linebacker from Hillsborough, N.C., a town of 7,000 not far from Raleigh or Chapel Hill. As it happened, Doeren and Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora were going to watch Wilson in person at the same game. Fedora would arrive by helicopter, Doeren by car.

Doeren was clearly worried his understated entrance would result in his presence being overlooked, but it turns out that approach suited Hillsborough and Wilson perfectly. (As an aside, isn't it funny how the "University of ___ are all a bunch of self-important city slickers and we at __ State University are a bunch of down-home folks" trope applies across every state?)

Fast forward to three years later. Fedora is no longer at North Carolina, and Doeren is preparing NC State for one of its biggest games in years. The Wolfpack are 4-1 and ranked No. 23 in the country, and UNC is 3-1 and No. 14.

In the first ranked v. ranked UNC-NC State game since 1993, Wilson will be one of the best players on the field. After leading the team in tackles in 2019, his 11 tackles per game are the most in the ACC thus far this season.

And Doeren didn't even need to get in a helicopter to land him.