New coach Dré Bly, a former star cornerback, remembers his UNC ‘rude boy’ days (it’s a mindset)

When Dré Bly played at North Carolina in the late 1990’s, he helped make popular the phrase “rude boy,” the name once adopted by UNC’s defensive backs.

Bly, who was hired to coach the defensive backs at UNC earlier this month, was a former All-America cornerback. And he helped the Tar Heels become one of the most feared defenses in the country during Mack Brown’s first stint at UNC.

“Rude boy” was a mindset he and his teammates had on the field, Bly said in an interview with The News & Observer in November.

To be “rude” means to play with an edge and to play with confidence, he said.

“Everybody can’t be rude,” Bly said. “That’s the thing. We gotta get back to guys understanding, what it really means to be a ‘rude boy.’ What it means is, certain things aren’t allowed.”

Bly was one of the most successful players in UNC football history. He was inducted into to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014, and played 11 seasons in the NFL with the 49ers, Lions, Broncos and Rams. He won a Super Bowl with the Rams in 2000.

Bly had accepted a job to coach defensive backs with the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football league in October, which is set to begin in February 2019. But Brown convinced Bly to join him at UNC after he was hired to succeed former coach Larry Fedora.

‘Great teams’

Brown said Bly brings excitement to the program.

“He’s in the Hall of Fame, he’s a great corner, and I’ve taken him in a few homes of defensive backs and those moms are like ‘Oh my God,’” Brown said. “They step over me to get to Dré because they want to see Dré.”

As a fan and former player watching UNC play Georgia Tech on Nov. 3, Bly reflected on the 2018 season. He said he wanted to see the players express themselves more and have fun.

North Carolina’s Dre Bly intercepts a pass intended for N.C. State’s Tory Holt during their game in 1998 at what is now Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Tar Heels won 37-34 in overtime. 1998 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Bly hopes to help re-create that at UNC, which struggled the last two seasons. UNC finished 3-9 in 2017 and 2-9 in 2018 under Fedora, who was fired after seven seasons.

In-state players

Bly said in November that he felt UNC could turn things around, but a few things had to change. He said it starts with recruiting in-state players.

“That’s one of the things Mack Brown did, and we did a good job,” Bly said. “We’ve just got to find a way to keep Georgia and Clemson and those guys away from our players. We’ve got to dig a little deeper, try a little harder, collectively as a group to try to get these guys back to stay with Chapel Hill.”

The other thing, he said, is the players have to perform.

“I truly believe that as players, you’ve got to take some accountability for your own actions as well,” Bly said. “All these guys are top guys. Whether you’re three-, four-star, two-star, they all lift the same weights, they running 4.3’s just like them other guys. At the end of the day you’ve got to out-compete the opposition. It’s only but so much you can really blame on the staff.”

UNC lost seven of its nine games by 10 points or less last season, including the loss to Georgia Tech 38-28. Bly said in November that he didn’t want to hear any excuses for why the team wasn’t winning, because that wasn’t helping.

“Nobody ain’t going to feel sorry for you,” Bly said. “At the end of the day, if you ain’t getting it done they are going to replace you, and that’s got to be your mindset. You’ve got to think and believe that.”

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Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
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