CHAPEL HILL — After being the source of early blame and lately being praised, safety Tre Boston, along with the entire North Carolina defense, has been one of the prevailing reasons for the turnaround in Chapel Hill.
Boston was named a Preseason All-ACC selection, but was part of an oft-criticized secondary during a 1-5 start including a 27-10 loss to South Carolina and a 55-31 loss to East Carolina.
Now, the Tar Heels are bowl eligible thanks to a five-game winning streak and Boston can’t seem to wipe the smile off his face. The senior spoke – and laughed – about everything from the struggles this season to what his tenure at UNC has been like over the past four seasons.
Q: How much have things changed for this team since the 1-5 start?
A: Wow. It was crazy. Going 1-5 just made us realize how much harder we needed to work. Coach (Larry Fedora) came up with the saying, “One more inch.” And we just always tried to go one more inch and guys really believed in that. We knew we were good, we just weren’t playing are best.
Then Miami happened. We realized after that game, especially as a defense, what we were capable of. We’ve kept that through the rest of the season and now we have a good bunch that’s winning games. One of the biggest changes is that we’re confident now. Our offense is clicking, our defense is clicking and all I know is that I’m enjoying this right now.
Q: The game last year against Duke, that was the first time Duke had won in years. What’s the attitude like this time?
A: I believe last year is last year. We’re on a roll right now and I believe we’re playing some of our best football since I’ve been here. Duke’s clicking right now, too, so they’ll be tough. It’s a rivalry, so it really comes down to who wants it more. We’ve just got to want it more this year.
Q: There are always discussions about who’s the best team in the state. While ECU might be able to say it beat two in-state opponents, this team has a chance to be the best in the Triangle. How important is that?
A: Honestly, this state’s dominance isn’t about just this year. It’s also about a tradition of winning. Let’s be honest, look at the record books, this is our state. You might beat us this year, but we know whose state it is.
But to deal with the current situation, these games are very important. ECU is a very good team and I don’t want to take anything away from them, but that was early in the season. To beat Duke and State in the same year would be great. Teams get remembered in November and we want to go out with a bang.
Q: Your team was seen as a dark horse to win the Coastal and go to the ACC Championship game. Now, Duke this season has a chance to, if they win, accomplish that. How much more important does that make this game?
A: That’s just crazy. A win here not only helps this team, but helps us as a program. Next year, people will look at this team and say, “Wow. They flipped it around and did everything they had to do to become winners.” If we win this game and a bowl game, we’d finish on a seven-game winning streak. That has to be recognized.
Q: What’s it going to be like walking on the field for the last time in a UNC jersey at Kenan Stadium?
A: I can’t believe this is the last one. It’s crazy because I’m going to have so many mixed emotions when I step on that field, but it’s easy to get a hold of those when you’re playing a team like Duke. My coaches know when the ball is snapped, I’m going to be right back in it. I’ll definitely be able to cherish that moment.
Q: During your four years here, going through turmoil and triumph, how would you sum up your tenure at UNC?
A: Whoa, that’s tough. To sum it all up, I really want to call it a blessing. To be under so many coaches and learn so many things to put in my toolbox for hopefully when I go to the NFL. It’s really been a blessing to go through ups and downs, handle that adversity, and get where we are today with two games left is just crazy.
I’ve seen it all here. Four years, five different position coaches, three different head coaches. At any point, I could have chosen to go somewhere and feel more comfortable. But I knew I needed to be here to help lead this team through those issues and I think that’s shown everyone that we’re fighters. We’ve been in several corners and we’ve always fought our way out.
God put us all in this situation and we became a real family thanks to coach Fedora. We’ve followed him and believed in him. As crazy as it might have seemed years ago, this team is in better hands now because he knows what he’s doing.
Smith: 919-829-4841; Twitter: @RCorySmith