UNC's Blue Steel builds a brand
Posted March 25, 2011
Newark, N.J. — Six non-scholarship players for the University of North Carolina have made a name for themselves by having a sense of humor.
D.J. Johnston, Stewart Cooper, Daniel Bolic, Van Hatchell, Dave Dupont and Patrick Crouch – collectively known as "Blue Steel" – are arguably the most famous walk-ons in college basketball this season.
"It's unreal," said Johnston.
The nickname comes from an exaggerated pose by male model Derek Zoolander's in the Ben Stiller movie "Zoolander." Head coach Roy Williams used the name in practice and it stuck, Hatchell said.
The starters have nothing but praise for their end-of-the-bench teammates. "I love Blue Steel," said John Henson. "They're kind of our unsung heroes," said Harrison Barnes.
The six have parlayed their lack of playing time and pop-culture nickname into an ironic stardom within the Carolina family. They are on Twitter (twitter.com/real_bluesteel), providing mostly self-deprecating comments.
"It's a movement, I guess," Hatchell said. More than 7,000 people follow their "tweets from the bench."
When Hatchell, a business major, worked up a design for Blue Steel T-shirts, they quickly sold out.
They even have a hand signal, best described as a flap of the fingers. "It's all about respect," Hatchell said.
Blue Steel's on-court highlight came in the last home game of the regular season, when four senior walk-ons started the game against Duke. They left the floor to a standing ovation, holding a 3-0 lead over the Blue Devils.
"I was just like, wow," Hatchell said. "I lived my dream."