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Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Updated: October 1, 9:09 AM ET
Diary: Trip to South Bend will have to wait

By Chris Leak with Wayne Drehs
Special to ESPN.com

I didn't make it to Notre Dame.

I know everyone was eager to hear how my official visit to South Bend went last weekend, but it never happened. And the reason was logistics.

Tale of the tape
Chris Leak
  • 6-foot-1, 205 lbs.
  • 4.6 40-yard dash
  • 265 lb. bench press
    Week 5
  • 38-7 win
    vs. West Mecklenburg
  • 22-36, 299 yards
  • 3 TD passes
  • My Dad was on the phone with the Irish trying to finalize plans two weeks before the visit, but we couldn't figure out a schedule that worked for everyone. I had a game Friday night (we beat rival Butler 27-17, pushing our winning streak to 33 games) and Notre Dame played Michigan the next day at 2 p.m.

    My Dad didn't think that getting on a flight to Chicago at 6:00 a.m. the morning after a game and then standing in O'Hare airport for an hour and half before catching a flight to South Bend was worth it. Especially when, by the time I would get to campus, it would almost be time for kickoff and then I'd watch the game, spend the night and have to turn around and fly home. I was going to spend more time in airports than I would have visiting with Notre Dame folks.

    The coaches there said that if we couldn't find a flight that worked by Monday that they would reschedule. So that's what we're going to do. There's plenty of time to do these official visits, so I'll get to Notre Dame soon. In the mean time, my Dad and I drove to Chapel Hill for an unofficial visit to North Carolina on Saturday.

    I had a great time. You know how Tennessee has the Vol walk where the players walk from the football complex to Neyland Stadium? Well, Carolina has the same thing, the Tar Heel walk if you will. You start at the Bell Tower and walk all the way to the stadium. I got to walk with Coach Bunting. He told me it was the first time a recruit had ever gone with him on the walk. I could tell because there weren't any other recruits around. It was pretty special.

    When I met with Coach Bunting in his office, he told me he wanted to keep me home. He said that I'm his No. 1 guy and that he was going to come after me hard. Real hard. So you have to figure Carolina is going to be in the mix somewhere. Seeing that it's close to home and my sister Tammy graduated from there, it's definitely a place I'm going to have to consider.

    Leak's Recruiting trail
    The current Top 5
    (alphabetical)

    1. Florida
    2. North Carolina
    3. Notre Dame
    4. South Carolina
    5. Tennessee

    From the mailbag
    The incoming mail has been even the past few weeks, with his Top 5 schools as well as Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Northwestern and Ohio State sending slightly more than other schools.

    While I'm visiting a school, I'm constantly thinking about whether or not I could picture myself here. That's the most important criteria to me -- do I feel comfortable. I want to pick a place where I feel that I can thrive as a quarterback, a student and be genuinely happy. A home away from home.

    During my visit to Carolina, I certainly felt that way. My hostess (who by the way was pretty good looking) took me around to see some classrooms, the freshmen dorms and then the renovated Kenan Stadium and Kenan Football Complex. Everything from the coaches' offices to the locker room, weight room, players' lounge, computer labs, and the auditorium was gorgeous. Everybody has been saying how impressive the new Carolina facilities were and I agree -- everything is first class.

    At the game, we had great seats. Right where you could see the holes open up on offense. I brought my Dad, one of my receivers and my brother C.J. Tennessee had a bye week last week so C.J. was home and wanted to come with us. I couldn't remember the last time he was home, so it was great to see him and spend some time with him. My Dad and I are going to drive to Knoxville this week for the big showdown with Florida.

    After the Carolina game, we drove home. My Dad didn't want to get home too late and since I had my brother and a buddy with me, I didn't want to drag them around anymore. So we headed back to Charlotte.

    My overall impression of Carolina was that this is a program on the rise, if it's not already there. Mack Brown, now the Texas coach, really helped put the Carolina program on the map. There's no question it's one of the hot, up and coming programs in the country. And Coach Bunting is a player's coach. You can tell that he played and was a linebacker. He has that mentality.

    Regarding my own football team, things are still coming along. Even though we're 3-0, we still have yet to play a strong four quarters.

    It reminds me of when I was a sophomore and a lot of the guys were inexperienced. We've been plagued by turnovers and penalties. But that's natural. It's just a stage we have to go through. Once we get to the middle of the season here in a couple weeks, we should be just fine.

    I've tried to become more of a leader this season. I tell the guys in the huddle to just do their job. Play smart. Forget about trying to do too much or trying to make up for mistakes on one play. Just do your job and we'll be fine. Three more wins and we will break a 48-year-old county record of 35 wins in a row.

    Two weeks ago, I threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-7 victory over Spartanburg (S.C.), setting the state record for career passing yards. Combined with last week, I have 11,322 passing yards in my career, meaning I will need 3,136 yards in our last 13 games to set the national record of 14,457.

    Ask Chris Leak
    How much have you thought about the social significance of your decision? Being a prominent black athlete, does playing for a black coach at a school like Notre Dame or Michigan State interest you at all?
    Jonathan Barnes
    Kalamazoo, Mich.

    Chris Leak: Well, you know, it really doesn't matter to me. I'm just worried about how I feel with a coach. If I feel like a coach genuinely cares about me and is truly worried about my future, that will be the school that I choose. Color doesn't matter.


    With all the problems that Oklahoma has been having at the quarterback spot, has anyone from OU tried to contact you about a visit? Any interest in them at all?
    Robert Holmes
    Thomas, Okla.

    Chris Leak: No, Oklahoma has not contacted me. If they wanted to talk to me or offer me, I would tell them what I tell everybody else -- the door is wide open. Tennessee is the leader, but I certainly haven't finalized my decision. But I haven't heard from the Sooners.


    I know you and Kyle Wright have become friends through the recruiting process. What was your reaction to his decision last week that he will sign with Miami? Did he tell you ahead of time? Have you talked since? Were you at all nervous that he might sign with Tennessee, your No. 1 choice?
    Dave Holthoff
    Mission Viejo, Calif.

    Chris Leak: Well, I had heard that Miami was the leader. I haven't talkd to Kyle much since the Elite 11 camp, it's just so hard with the three-hour difference in time zones. By the time he gets home from practice, I'm likely already in bed. But talking to him at the camp, I got the feeling he was going to become a Hurricane. Just the way he talked about that school, you really felt like that's where he wanted to go. So I wasn't shocked or surprised. And that's a great school. I mean, you can't go wrong with signing to be the quarterback of the future at Miami.


    What would have to happen to remove Tennessee from the lead? I love the Vols and just got to know what might keep you from coming to Knoxville.
    Joe VanDercook
    Olney, Md.

    Chris Leak: That's a tough one. I don't know if I can answer that. I guess for a team to start recruiting me really, really hard. But even then, it depends where my heart is. The only way I'm going to change my mind is my heart feels like it's somewhere else. If I go on a visit somewhere or click with a certain coach and then feel strongly about a certain school, than that's where I'm going to go.

    Tennessee is the main school I've been with, since my brother goes there and I've visited so many times and know the coaches so well. But that doesn't mean it's a done deal. I'm going to take all my visits and it will come down to the feeling I have in my heart, where I feel home. So, to answer your question, it really isn't something that a particular school can do to change my mind. It's a feeling I will have to have.

    ESPN.com is following quarterback Chris Leak on his journey from high school to the college ranks. Leak will be writing a diary about his recruitment, and we will file regular reports on the recruiting process every Thursday through Signing Day on Feb. 5, 2003.

    Send in your questions and Chris will answer a few in his next diary.