Last week I wrote a story about how I think Patrice Rene has a shot to be an All Conference cornerback this season. I reached out to Patrice to see if he’d answer a couple questions for me and he was kind enough to do a full interview with me. I’ve transcribed most of it here.
THB: Patrice, one thing I wanted to ask you about is that people who don’t follow North Carolina football might not know that y’all got a new head coach. Mack Brown came back for what will be his second round in Chapel Hill coaching. What’s it been like with the new head coach? There seems to be so much excitement around the program right now, what has that been like as a player within the program?
PR: As a player it’s been amazing so far having Coach Brown back, I mean he’s the G.O.A.T. and a Hall of Famer. He’s a guy that has a lot of respect in the football world, having him as the head coach has been something really special for our team. As a player, being able to learn from him each and every day, and what he’s done for the program in such a short amount of time has been incredible. I’m definitely excited to have Coach Brown as the head coach, and I’m excited to see how this team plays in the season coming up.
THB: Another new coach on your staff is new Defensive Coordinator Jay Bateman. He was at Army for the last few years, and their defense crushed it while he was there. What has playing in his defense been like and what is it like practicing with Coach Bateman?
PR: Coach Bateman is a genius himself. He does a lot of different things, and pretty much just puts us in the best position to make plays. He’s a smart guy who really knows his stuff. His defenses, they’re different. He brings a whole bunch of different types of defenses, bringing blitzes from each and every corner, you don’t really know who’s blitzing or when they’re blitzing. He does a lot of different stuff, a lot of stunt packages for us. It’s incredible to have him on our staff as our defensive coordinator. I’m able to pick his brain each and every game and practice and just continue to learn from him. He’s a great guy and I’m really excited about him.
THB: Last year, K.J. Sails was kind of the [primary] guy and that second cornerback spot was rotating but you really took it over by the second half of the season. You’re coming into your senior year as the number one guy. Has this summer been different for you compared to past summers where you’re locked in as the leader of that secondary?
PR: Yeah, I probably have the most experience in that secondary room right now, especially with all the freshmen. I’m just coming in each and every day, doing what I need to do to help the team get better. I want to do whatever I need to in order to help us win, and part of that this season is being a leader at that position. I’m ready to go out there and do my thing.
THB: [All of the staff at THB] have a debate at who’s going to be that number two cornerback. I don’t know how much you can say, but who are some of the younger players or players new to the program who have stepped up in practice and are going to make an impact this fall.
Patrice: We have a lot of guys, that’s one thing we have a lot more depth than we usually have through the years. Greg Ross is obviously coming back after he got hurt, he’s a guy that has that experience. Other than that we have guys like Storm Duck, Tre Shaw. We have guys like [Auburn transfer] Cam’ron Kelly, he has good technique and has shown a lot of good stuff. Pretty much the whole group honestly, we’re just trying to compete each and every day and get better and we’ll see what happens when the time comes.
Jacob: One of the things I love about watching you play is that you’re big, you’re long, you’re physical. One guy you remind me of is Kevin King, former Washington Husky who now plays for the Packers. Is there a player who you try to mold your game after or you feel you’re pretty similar too?
PR: I try to mold my game after as many guys as possible, take skillsets from different types of guys. Some of the main guys I try to model my game after are guys like Patrick Paterson [of the Arizona Cardinals] and Richard Sherman [former Seahawk, now San Francisco 49ers]. Kind of bigger corners that I resemble a little bit, so I’ll watch tape of them and stuff like that. But those are two big guys I try to model my game after.
THB: This one’s more about your personal life: [The Internet says] you were born in Canada, then went to high school in Alexandria, Virginia. When did you move over to the United States?
PR: Actually, I was born in Haiti and moved to Canada when I was about two years old. I was raised there ever since, kind of with that Haitian background. I grew up in Canada my whole life, and left [to Alexandria] when I was sixteen, going into my junior year of high school. I transitioned when I was sixteen, had a really great opportunity at a really great school with great coaches and a great football program [Episcopal Academy]. I couldn’t really pass that up so I made that move and it’s been a blessing ever since.
THB: So do you and your family speak Creole at all still?
PR: Oh yeah, for sure, I got my Haitian roots rooted in me. My grandparents and my family all speak Creole. I speak Creole, French, and English so a little trilingual. We all speak Creole and French back home, so it’s nice to kind of have that sense of home when you’re away.
THB: So you went to high school in Virginia, you were getting recruited by Rutgers, Wisconsin, among other programs. What ultimately made you decide on North Carolina?
PR: I mean, I was originally committed to Rutgers. Unfortunately they had a change in the coaching staff, and that kind of played into re-opening my recruitment. North Carolina was one of the schools that was just really hard on me, never really kind of stopped talking to me and kept pursuing me. Coach [Gene] Chizik and Coach JP [former linebackers coach John Papuchis] were the two main guys that recruited me. So once that happened at Rutgers I decided to take a visit here [Chapel Hill]. Once I came to campus I was in love with it. I loved what they had going on, they were just coming off that 11-1 season and having Coach Chizik back. Everything they had going on was just very exciting, plus the campus and atmosphere it was just a really great opportunity I felt like I couldn’t pass up. I don’t regret anything, I love it here.
THB: I’m looking at your upcoming schedule. There are no easy games that you guys play, every game is going to be a dogfight. What are one or two games that you’re looking forward to maybe a bit more than others on the schedule?
PR: Like you said, every game is a dog fight so we’re just trying to take it game by game. But I mean, for sure, there are a couple games that stick out, most importantly the Clemson game. They’re the defending champs, it’s on a big stage and a night game, sold out crowd. It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere. I obviously can’t wait to go out there and ball out and show the world what we got. Other than that, like I said every game is important for us. That Clemson game is one that sticks in my mind for sure.
THB: Other than Kenan, what is the coolest stadium or coolest atmosphere that you’ve played in as a visitor?
PR: Definitely Florida State my freshman year, winning that on a last second field goal. That’s a crazy atmosphere and a crazy fan base. It was really cool, very special being able to go in there and come out with the win. That’s definitely one of the most special ones in terms of away games.
(For your viewing pleasure).
This interview can be listened to in podcast form by clicking the link at the beginning of this sentence. Because it was on a personal podcast and not THB’s, I decided to share it here as well to reach as many Tar Heel fans as possible. Patrice was fantastic to talk to and I came away really impressed with him, and hope he continues to kill it this season!