Being K.J. Sails

Andrew Jones, Publisher
Tar Heel Illustrated

CHAPEL HILL – Celebration comes naturally to K.J. Sails.

Exuberant celebration, which is more like it

“It’s part of who I am, it just comes out naturally,” Sails said following Wednesday’s practice. “It’s how I’ve been my whole life.”

A true sophomore, Sails is just 5-11 and 175 ponds, though he likes to joke with his teammates he’s the biggest and baddest guy on the field, Sails began the season as a reserve behind Corey Bell at the cornerback spot opposite of All-America candidate M.J. Stewart. But Sails has started the last four games and his progress has been easily noticeable.

A natural cover corner, Sails takes tremendous pride in staying with a receiver and not letting him catch the ball. He has 6 pass breakups on the season, but has affected at least a dozen more catchable balls that receivers did not grab.

That’s where he’s improved the most through five games.

“My footwork and how I address pressing,” he said. “I’m a big press guy, so little things like footwork I’ve been working on.”

Stewart has served as a mentor to Sails. Picture: Sails, shorter and more diminutive, bugging the larger Stewart to work on this, work on that, like a little brother wanting the older brother to constantly play with him.

Only that Stewart has never minded.

“K.J., every day after practice he works with just me,” Stewart said. “I remember in spring ball he said, ‘M.J., what are you doing?’ And after that he’s joined me for whatever I’ve done after practice. He has that work ethic and savviness that you need.”

And that brings everything back to what else a team needs on the field, something Sails never has trouble producing. Energy, fun and passion.

“Positivity. I’m a big energy guy, so I feed off of energy, so I feel that my teammates feed off of me,” Sails said. “So if I make a play M.J. will make a play and we just feed off of each other.”

And humor.

“I just do it, it just happens,” he said.

UNC fans have noticed it, and most enjoy it almost as much as the players. Defensive coordinator John Papuchis doesn’t try to squelch the Tampa, FL, native, who also happens to be a new father to King Jeremiah Sails on Aug. 13.

Sails needs to react to moments on the field as he does. It’s good for him and good for the Heels.

“JP says, ‘If that’s how you make plays, keep doing what you’re doing,’” Sails said. “I feel like that’s great for him to let me do what I do.”

Sails is getting better with each game, and his gyrations and exuberance are, too. He’s a talker on the field and makes no bones about it, so it’s not going to change.

And the more he improves and the Tar Heels start winning, King’s daddy will continue to cover corners step-by-step and put on a short show when he makes plays.

Because that’s K.J. Sails.

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