Player fashion became a topic of interest on Thursday and Friday at the ACC's annual preseason football kickoff, what with the red shoes that N.C. State's Jaylen Samuels wore on Thursday, and the flip-up sunglasses that Virginia Tech's Cam Phillips wore on Friday.
And, yes, the bow tie that North Carolina defensive back M.J. Stewart wore on Friday. It was in a check black and white plaid pattern, and Stewart was asked about it during his time at the podium in the big interview room, right between more football-centric questions.
What, an enterprising television reporter wanted to know, does wearing a bow tie say about a man? Stewart's answer: “You know, a bow tie is a pretty hard tie to tie, so any man that can tie a bow tie, it just shows he has a lot of work ethic, and he's a classy man.”
Stewart later suggested that he's something of a bow tie aficionado, and that perhaps he should make a YouTube tutorial assisting the struggling masses in their efforts to tie one correctly. He managed success with his on his first try on Friday, he said.
There were some football questions, too, amid the bow tie curiosity. Stewart will be expected to be one of UNC's primary defensive leaders, and one who provides as much guidance in the locker room as he does production on the field.
It's a role in which Nazair Jones, the former defensive tackle, thrived a season ago. Jones, though, is off to the NFL. He was, perhaps, the greatest personnel loss on the UNC defense – a unit that will need to excel, especially, if the offense takes its time to develop amid significant personnel losses of its own.
All of which brought Stewart to characterize the Tar Heels as “hungry.” He and UNC's other player representative here, Bentley Spain, received questions throughout Friday about how the Tar Heels will ever be able to compensate for all they lost from a season ago.
Asked to describe the personality of this UNC team, Stewart quickly used “hungry.”
“Just for the fact that there are so many questions surrounding our team, quarterback situation, the production that left, the defense, how we're going to hold up and be the backbone, so many questions,” he said. “And you know, we use that as a team to motivate us.
“And we have people saying we're going to be under seven wins. I think the prediction was like fifth in the Coastal Division. We just use that as motivation, and I constantly remind the guys that we are a team that needs to be reckoned with in the ACC.”