Many of the former Tar Heels in the NFL have had successful seasons and have helped the name of the UNC football program.
The player with the most success this season has to be St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, as he was named the Defensive Player of the Year by the Professional Football Writers of America this past Wednesday.
This could be the first of many awards for the 23-year-old Ladson, South Carolina native. Quinn led the NFC in sacks this season with 19 and led the league in yards lost on sacks with 145. On top of that, he forced 7 fumbles, recovered 2, and had a touchdown. With numbers like that, Rams fans should be nothing but happy with the play of Quinn this season. Tar Heel and Rams fans alike should be excited to see what the future holds for the DPOY out of Chapel Hill.
Not only did Quinn lead the NFC in sacks, but he also broke the Rams franchise record for sacks in a single season. Kevin Carter, who played during the 1999 season when the Rams won the Super Bowl, held the previous franchise record with 17 sacks in the regular season.
Giovani Bernard had a rookie season with the Cincinnati Bengals that did not surprise the Tar Heel faithful that knew what “Gio” was capable of. Gio tallied up 695 rushing yards, 514 receiving yards, and 8 total TD.
Zach Brown, a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, led all Tar Heels in the NFL in tackles, finishing the season with 91 tackles. Buffalo Bills safety Da’Norris Searcy had the second highest total this season with 71 tackles, while Quinn was third with 57 tackles.
Individual success was obviously prevalent for the former Tar Heels, but seven Tar Heels and their respective teams made the playoffs this season. Bernard and Brandon Tate (Cincinnati Bengals), Ryan Taylor (Green Bay Packers), Travis Bond (Carolina Panthers), Kevin Reddick (New Orleans Saints), Sylvester Williams (Denver Broncos), and Cam Thomas (San Diego Chargers) all made it into the postseason.
A Tar Heel fan favorite, Julius Peppers, who plays defensive end for the Chicago Bears, missed the playoffs by one game when they lost to Taylor and the Packers. Peppers finished the game with four tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble. This is the third straight year that Peppers and the Bears have missed out on the playoffs.
Former Tar Heel standout Hakeem Nicks did not have the season he had hoped for. Nicks had 56 receptions for 896 yards, which is not necessarily bad, but he also finished the season with zero touchdowns for the first time in his career.
With the number of Tar Heels that had successful seasons in the NFL, UNC fans should be proud of what their alumni have been able to achieve at the next level.