Move over, Miami turnover chain: UNC’s ‘turnover belt’ the latest defensive incentive

North Carolina safety Myles Wolfolk stood near midfield after North Carolina’s 24-20 win over South Carolina, and held out his arms so the cameras around him could see the belt wrapped around his waist.

His teammates surrounded him and pointed at it.

Wolfolk was wearing a WWE-like championship belt. The Tar Heels call it, “the turnover belt,” modeled after Miami’s popular “turnover chain.” The Hurricanes started the turnover chain in 2017 as an incentive for creating turnovers. The player who created the turnover got to wear the chain on the sidelines until the next turnover occurred. The movement sparked other teams to come up with incentives and props of their own as motivation.

The Tar Heels are the latest team to do it. UNC created 17 turnovers in 2018, which was ranked 90th in the country out of 130 FBS teams.

Wolfolk, a 5-11, 205-pound junior, had two interceptions in UNC’s season-opening victory on Saturday. Both interceptions came during the game’s final three minutes, and helped seal the Tar Heels’ first season-opening win against a Power 5 team since 1997.

After the game and during his postgame press conference, Wolfolk held the belt over his left shoulder and smiled.

“Yeah, this is a nice little addition for us to have, a little motivation for the Rude to get a pick, for everybody on defense to get a turnover,” Wolfolk said, looking down at the belt. “We’re all aiming to get this every week. This week was mine and I’m blessed to say it.”

The idea to have a turnover belt came from new defensive backs coach Dre Bly, Wolfolk said. Bly, who played three seasons at UNC from 1997 to 1999, had 20 interceptions in his college career. At the time, it was an ACC record, which has since been broken.

He helped create the nickname “Rude Boys” for UNC’s defensive backs. When he was hired by UNC coach Mack Brown to coach the defensive backs last December, he said he wanted to bring back the Rude Boy mindset defensive backs once had at UNC.

The turnover chain epitomizes that. It is Carolina Blue and silver, and reads “Carolina Football” and “Be the One.”

“Turnovers is a big part of the game, and we’re going to celebrate when we get them,” Wolfolk said.

The Gamecocks had the ball with less than two minutes left at the Tar Heels’ 26-yard-line. They trailed by four points, and a touchdown would have given the Gamecocks the lead.

But on 3rd-and-10, Wolfolk baited South Carolina quarterback Jack Bentley to make the wrong read, and intercepted his pass at the 12-yard line. He returned it 42 yards to the USC 46, essentially sealing the game.

USC vs UNC.jpg
North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Myles Wolfolk (11) intercepts the ball in front of South Carolina wide receiver Shi Smith (13) during late, fourth-quarter action in Charlotte on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Travis Bell SIDELINE CAROLINA

“I told everybody in the locker room I wanted to be the first one to get the belt, so I’m very happy to be able to do that,” Wolfolk said.

After speaking with reporters, Wolfolk walked toward the buses with the belt still on his shoulder.

When does he have to give the belt back?

“Unfortunately, tomorrow,” he said with a smile.

But until then, he was going to wear it with pride.

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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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