Maryland at North Carolina 3 p.m. Saturday, FSCR

UNC seniors never wavered in commitment to football program

Sanctions rocked Tar Heels, but seniors stayed put, played well

csmith@newsobserver.comNovember 23, 2012 

— On the morning of March 12, sanctions were handed down that rocked the North Carolina football team. That afternoon, the current Tar Heels made a decision that would shape the fate of the upcoming season.

Despite facing a bowl ban, senior linebacker Kevin Reddick stood before his teammates and made his message clear – his class would finish what they started.

“We all knew what was at stake,” Reddick said. “We all came together and we’re going to ride together. That was my main statement at the meeting.”

Fellow senior defensive tackle Sylvester Williams never second-guessed his decision to return, either.

“We all made up our minds that we were at home,” Williams said of the senior class. “It’s different than saying, ‘I’m a football player.’ We did this for the people who played here before and will play here in the future.

“It was a hard decision, but the decision for me to stay was a no-brainer.”

Williams and Reddick will be honored Saturday along with 15 other seniors when Carolina takes on Maryland in the season finale.

Reddick, guard Jonathan Cooper and receiver Erik Highsmith have started more than 40 games.

That consistency has paid off for the Heels in the form of a 5-1 record at Kenan Stadium thus far. While the immediacy of this being his final game is still hitting him, Reddick is proud it will be with coach Larry Fedora.

“I’m happy with my decision to stay here,” Reddick said. “It worked out well for us because we have coach Fedora and a great staff. It was a fast journey, but it was great to be able to experience it with new coaches and seeing different ways with other men and bettering myself.”

Saturday will conclude an erratic season that included beating N.C. State in the final seconds and losing to Duke in the final seconds.

The meeting Saturday might be Carolina’s last chance to host the Terps as a member of the ACC, and Williams couldn’t overstate the importance of this game to his senior class.

“This is the last time these seniors will ever put on that helmet,” he said. “You definitely want to go out with a bang and win your last game. I’m expecting for me to be hard to get off the field. It’s going to be hard because I love it here.”

Fedora said he had not thought about the impact of not having the seniors around, but said it would be a tremendous blow for his team without their leadership.

“I would say their impact was tremendous,” Fedora said. “It gave confidence to everybody else who was in the program, coaches included, and to the fans that these guys saw value in staying. They wanted to win and they wanted to win here because they’ve been through a lot.

“These guys take a lot of pride in wearing that interlocking NC on their chest and on the side of their helmets.”

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