Roberson lineman Jeff DeLeon and two other Western North Carolina football players have been treated like royalty in the past week.
But there is one drawback to being selected to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
“I just keep thinking about all the classwork that I’m going to have to make up when I come back,” DeLeon said.
DeLeon and his quarterback, Noah Suber, as well as Hendersonville wide receiver D.J. Wilson are part of North Carolina’s 44-man roster for today’s 76th annual Shrine Bowl, which pits them against a team of South Carolina seniors.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. from Wofford College.
The WNC trio joined Hendersonville coach B.J. Laughter — who is an assistant on the North Carolina staff — in Upstate South Carolina last weekend for the start of practice, and they have been there every since.
“It’s just pretty fun and exciting to know it’s here because I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” DeLeon said.
“Having (Suber) down here with me is great. I wouldn’t have it any other way. To be down here and know somebody is a great feeling.”
None of the three WNC seniors involved in today’s Shrine Bowl have yet to announce a college commitment.
DeLeon is a 6-foot-4, 280-pound All-Mountain Athletic Conference selection who led the Rams with 35 pancake blocks. His blocking freed up Suber to lead the team in passing yardage (1,502) and rushing (1,232).
Suber scored 28 touchdowns and was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year.
Wilson hauled in 44 receptions for 992 yards and 10 touchdowns to land a spot on the All-Western Highlands Conference team.
Laughter is the defensive coordinator for the North Carolina team.
“I’ve told a lot of these kids that it took them four years to get here, it’s taken me 22. So I’m about five times as happy,” Laughter said with a laugh.
“It’s been so special to coach this caliber of kids.”
Laughter said that the Tar Heels coaches and players visited a local Shriners Hospital last weekend. Proceeds from the Shrine Bowl go towards treating injured children.
“What a humbling experience,” Laughter said.
“Those kids wish they could jump and play like we’re going to do (today). We’re playing for them, not for ourselves. Whatever we do, we want to make sure that we don’t disrespect the true meaning of this game.”