Wide receiver Braeden Heald was to be one of the many talented players among the class of 2017, but a devastating injury in his senior year changed all that. In order to regain a chance at a scholarship, Heald went from Des Moines, Iowa to Williston Northampton preparatory school in Massachusetts, where he will play one more season and will be among the class of 2018.
Heald told Tar Heel Illustrated that he has a chance to play at UNC next year, if things go well for him. He camped at North Carolina in June and reportedly played very well there. His performance impressed UNC’s coaches, who mentioned to him that he could have a spot to walk on next year.
He previously had the opportunity to play Division III football, but ultimately turned it down for a post graduate year and a chance to make it to a Division I school. He also says he has received attention from FCS schools like Elon, Fordham, Holy Cross, and Princeton.
Walking on at UNC is no small thing these days because many have gone on to find success on the field. Wide receiver Mack Hollins started as a walk-on, and now he’s a fourth-round draft pick with the Philadelphia Eagles. Linebacker Cole Holcomb started as a walk-on, but played so well in his sophomore season that he earned a scholarship last August. Now, there is rising senior Thomas Jackson, who impressed with 186 total receiving yards on a 10.9 average per reception. UNC will be asking a lot more from Jackson in 2017, which should net him a lot of attention this season.
Heald may not be as highly coveted as other players at Chapel Hill, but he has a chance to make a name for himself. If UNC ultimately offers him a spot on the roster, not only will it be a success for the Iowan athlete who nearly saw his chances dashed, but it could also turn into something promising for the Tar Heels. They will enter the 2017 season with an all new crop of receivers, and will surely need more players in 2018 once Jackson and Austin Proehl graduate.