Six months ago, freshman quarterback Drake May of North Carolina wasn’t sure if he’d win the school’s first job. Since then, he has emerged as the NFL’s 2024 draft pick and the unwitting face of the free market that has emerged in college football.
In an interview with ESPN on Thursday, May reflected on the past few weeks, which included a social media post announcing that he was staying at UNC as a way to combat rumors of him entering the transfer gate. Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi fanned the flames by saying this week that two schools had offered May $5 million to turn her around.
“These rumors were not reality,” he told ESPN. He added, “The Pitt coach ended up bringing that up. I don’t know what it was about. You have to go into the transfer portal to talk to these schools and listen to these offers. For me, I think college football is going to turn into a mess. They’re going to have to Do something. There was nothing to me or my family that was offered directly from any of these other schools. Nothing was said or offered to the Mayes family.”
May threw for 4,115 yards and 35 touchdowns this year, leading UNC (9-4) to the ACC Title Game and Holiday Bowl bid.
In the aftermath of that breakout season, both UNC coach Mack Brown (“a lot of money”) and Narduzzi publicly indicated that Mae had big money offers from other schools. He did not name the schools, but Brown hinted that it was the school that usually appeared in the recruiting rankings.
May agreed to a zero-sum deal with UNC’s Heels4Life program and denies that he and his family received any direct offers from other schools.
May added that he only heard about outside interest “through the grapevine”. He said, “Some people were texting my high school coach about it. That’s basically what happened, people reached out to some of my reps and media people from the NIL.”
May’s family has deep roots on the UNC campus. Both his parents graduated from there and his brother, Luke, hit one of the most famous shots in UNC basketball history in 2017. Drake Maye rooms with another brother, Beau, who is a UNC basketball player.
May grew up adoring UNC, and has said that no other school could give him “the same feeling of a heartbeat” that UNC does.
“It’s not going to be okay, especially with all my family…” he said. “Switching it after everything Mayes has been through wouldn’t represent what college means to me or how much it means to me to go there. It would spoil the magic and everything we built there. Carolina blue is special. There’s no other color in the world in that sense.” .”
May’s father, Mark May, is a former UNC quarterback who worked on the UNC football team under Mack Brown during his first term at the school. Mark May said the family never discussed Drake leaving UNC, though there were “plenty of rumors” of his son entering the NCAA transfer portal.
“North Carolina was where he wanted to be,” Mark May told ESPN. “He never mentioned anything, ever, about wanting to see what was out there or anything like that.”
Maye’s NIL deal with UNC’s Heels4Life program includes financial incentives and is also expected to have a charitable component. May said he’s done a local business with Ronald McDonald House and Table NC, which provides healthy food to local kids. He has an interest in doing charity work in his home area of Charlotte.
Heels4Life CEO Graham Bunn said May had stressed to him that deals would be available for his teammates. He said the deal with May was “not a negotiation” but more of “an offer of our committed support”.
“We stepped up to the plate to make sure UNC was the best place for him,” Boone said. “We wanted to make sure he had no interest in going anywhere else. As Coach Brown said, he turned down a lot of money [elsewhere]. That’s not to say Heels4Life didn’t make a very reasonable amount.”
May said his rapprochement with the UN leadership won out.
“Unfortunately, I think money has become a reason why kids go where they are,” he said. “Where I play at, with, and for Coach Brown, the Carolina blue outweighs the money part of it. I don’t think any amount of money from any school [would sway me]. Nowadays, people sign NIL. It puts a lot of pressure on these kids. If I move outside and go somewhere, it will never be the same.”
Maye’s return to UNC will mean one of the most exciting seasons in years, as he has a chance to become the program’s first overall NFL pick. There is expected to be a debate throughout the season in 2023 between Maye and USC Caleb Williams, a Heisman Trophy winning running back, over the top spot in the NFL Draft in 2024.
Right now, acknowledging potential roster liquidity, UNC expects to return 17 of its 22 starters. For Boone and Heels4Life, they see keeping Maye and handing deals to teammates as a way to capitalize on the momentum. He noted that UNC has been “on the brink” of being a national program several times in history. “Drake represents renewed interest from our fan base, that we can take this last step,” he said.
May told ESPN that the Browns made him an active part of UNC’s search for a new offensive coordinator after Phil Longo left Chapel Hill for Wisconsin. UNC leadership courted UCF offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, and May said he’s had Zooms or phone calls with several of the job’s finalists.
He said Lindsey will likely bring aspects of UCF’s running game, which should help boost UNC’s red zone effectiveness. (UNC ranks #58 in the FBS in red zone touchdowns). He’s excited that Lindsey has been developing NFL quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham and Nick Mullens at previous stops at Auburn and Southern Miss.
“It was amazing getting to know him,” May said. “It looks great”.
May posted an Instagram post in early December to announce he would be returning, in a way he said to counter “rumors and speculation” about his departure. When summarizing the past month, he laughed.
“Really, it didn’t go down that much,” he said. “There was speculation and it was posted on Instagram,” the head coach said [I] I refused this amount of money that I had never heard of before. That’s basically the gist.”
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