UNC walk-ons filling key offensive roles
Posted September 5, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — North Carolina track star Roy Smith doesn’t have a football bio but after Saturday’s debut against Elon there is bound to be one in the works.
“For the first one I was real nervous in front of all the people,” said Smith. “I looked at the sideline a lot to Coach [Larry] Fedora and he told me to calm down.”
Smith approached Fedora about walking on the football team in April. Smith, then a sophomore was in his second year with the track team. His freshman year he took second at the State Championship track meet in the 400 meter hurdles.
“He said do you have the guts? And I said yes. But at first he didn’t think I could do it,” Smith admitted with a laugh.
Smith spent the summer studying football, a sport he hadn’t played in two years.
“I died out here the first practice, I just told myself to work hard every day and it would eventually come to me,” said Smith.
And it did, in his first collegiate game Smith returned six punts for 127 yards and had a catch for seven yards.
“Basically believing in me, and my teammates believing in me and my coaches believing in me, as long as I have those three things then I believe I should be fine every Saturday,” Smith said.
Smith isn’t the only dual sport athlete on the football team. Lacrosse midfielder Mark McNeill walked on for a second season this summer.
“I didn’t really get to play a lot last year so I thought this year I would have an opportunity to contribute,” said McNeill.
Both Smith and McNeill have a lot of opportunity in Fedora’s spread offense and neither of them could stop smiling thinking about it.
“I definitely had butterflies at first but you know once those first few plays got out I felt more comfortable,” said McNeill. “It was definitely exciting. I’ll always remember my first college game.”