Texans Yates to make UNC history Sunday
Posted November 29, 2011
Former North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates will make school history, yet again, in his first career start in the NFL.
Yates broke the school’s records for total passing yards, single-season passing yards and single season total offense, and now he will be the first UNC quarterback to start in an NFL game ever.
Yates will take the helm for the Houston Texans Sunday after first-stringer Matt Schaub was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury and second-stringer Matt Leinart injured his collarbone in the team’s last game.
It’s been a rough season for injuries for the Texans but head coach Gary Kubiak is standing behind his rookie quarterback.
I made a point of watching the Texans game against the Jaguars last week because I was curious to see how Leinart would play. It’s not exactly been an easy road for the former University of Southern California quarterback.
Leinart collected accolades at USC, studying under Carson Palmer and then beating out Matt Cassel for the starting job. He took the Trojans to a National Championship title (though he has teammate Reggie Bush to thank for that being taken away) and earned himself the Manning award and Heisman trophy.
Leinart was drafted 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals, backing up Kurt Warner for four seasons before being cut and signed by the Texans.
Though he hasn’t made the impression in the pros that he did in college, Sunday was his chance. A chance taken from him before the half was over as Leinart went out with an injury.
With only two quarterbacks dressed for the game, the team turned to T.J. Yates. Yates played for North Carolina from 2007 to 2010. Though the team as a whole didn’t live up to expectations, he himself excelled.
He broke records and led a team through the adversity of a NCAA investigation. Even when he fractured his ankle during the 2008 season, head coach Butch Davis was quick to opt for Yates over back-up Cam Sexton (who had played great in Yates’ absence) once Yates was healthy.
Having watched Yates play throughout college, I’ll admit I wasn’t ever his biggest fan. (I still think Davis should have left Sexton continue to play once Yates was healthy but that’s an argument for another day). Yates was drafted with the 152nd pick in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft, and I highly doubt anyone thought he'd see action in his rookie season.
But the Texans played even more conservative after Leinart went out and Yates was able to hold onto the win.
Coach Kubiak and even former UNC head coach Butch Davis have been very open about their belief that Yates will succeed Sunday. And I’m even more intrigued to see how Yates will do.
It'll be a game that maybe even Matt Schuab couldn’t have won as the Texans take on the Atlanta Falcons, so expectations for a win shouldn't be too high.
But it’s been awhile since the Tar Heels have had a quarterback in a NFL game at all (1987 Scott Stankavage to be exact) and the coaches, players and media around him all feel like Yates will be just fine.