Former Apple Valley standout Spencer Rolland grew up watching Gophers football, but he knew his chances of playing at that level weren't realistic out of high school.

At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Rolland was an inside force on the basketball court. He helped current San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones win a state title with the Eagles in 2017.

But Rolland's body didn't look the part of a Power Five football recruit. He ended up at Harvard and never thought he would play the Gophers until transferring up last year made that into a reality.

As North Carolina's starting right tackle, Rolland will have a chance to make an impact against his home state program when the Tar Heels host P.J. Fleck's Gophers on Saturday in Chapel Hill.

"It will be exciting to go out there and play against the Gophers," said the 315-pound sixth-year senior from Burnsville. "After watching them throughout my whole childhood, it will be fun to actually play against them this weekend."

At Harvard, Rolland bulked up to become a starter and earned all-league first team honors in 2021 before hitting the transfer portal to seek a higher level of football.

Rolland initially committed to Penn State but re-opened his recruitment to sign with North Carolina after visiting campus in February 2022. He started 13 games at right tackle last season for the Tar Heels, who ranked second in the ACC in passing behind star quarterback Drake Maye.

"Harvard was a good spot for me, because it gave me a chance to grow and develop," Rolland said. "UNC I thought was the best fit for me with the situation needing offensive linemen. Having Drake back there makes things a lot easier. I love blocking for him, because he's an amazing quarterback and makes amazing plays."

Gophers starting senior center Nathan Boe, who went to Lakeville North, was in the same 2018 class as Rolland, who was ranked as the 24th best player in Minnesota by Boe played football and basketball against Apple Valley in high school, but he also ran into Rolland on the recruiting trail.

"Spencer's a great guy," Boe said. "We saw each other at recruiting camps growing up. Nothing but nice things to say about him, his dad and his family. I'm happy for him where [he's] at."

The Gophers have seen an improvement in their pass rush to rank third in the Big Ten with seven sacks through two games this season. So Rolland knows his offensive line must be ready when a familiar foe takes the field Saturday.

"I think the Gophers pose a really good challenge," Rolland said. "They've shown to be very physical and very fast on the defensive side. To go out there and play and compete against Minnesota, it's going to be a fun battle."