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January 5, 2012
Brewer 'thankful' he's back at UNC
Most of the time after a press conference at the Kenan Football Center, fans and well wishers flock toward the head coach.
But when Larry Fedora finished introducing eight members of his North Carolina coaching staff Tuesday, the crowd, including media, gravitated to the Tar Heels new passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach.
"Glad to have you back,'' one fan said. "Really glad to be back,'' replied Gunter Brewer, who may have been the happiest of the new coaches to receive the call from Fedora inviting him to join his staff in Chapel Hill.
Brewer spent four seasons on the UNC staff between 2000 and 2004 working for head coaches Carl Torbush and John Bunting. He was a successful coach and recruiter, and a popular figure among fans due to his boyish, Southern charm.
Stops at Oklahoma State, where he worked with Fedora, and Mississippi followed Brewer's stint at UNC. But as Brewer put it Tuesday, his heart remained in Chapel Hill.
"It's a place if you haven't been here, you always want to get here,'' he said. "And if you've ever been here, you always want to come back.''
Brewer and his family were so attached to Chapel Hill and UNC that they'd often returned to vacation in the area.
"Intentionally, I'd make my way back to the Southern part of heaven anytime I could get here,'' Brewer said. "It's a place we'd come back and vacation, or I'd come back and watch spring ball and visit with some of the staff here and talk football.''
The son of former Mississippi head coach Billy Brewer, Gunter had returned to Oxford to work for Coach Houston Nutt as associate head coach, passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach in January 2011. The move allowed him to return to his roots soon after the death of his mother, Kay.
Nutt, however, was forced to resign when the 2011 season ended. The move left Brewer in limbo, even though he was the lone staff member retained to handle the Rebels recruiting through the coaching transition.
When Fedora was announced as UNC's new head coach in December, Brewer's phone started to ring. At first it wasn't Fedora calling.
"When he got the job, obviously, because I knew a lot of people here, I was fielding a lot of phone calls from boosters and alumni and administrators,'' Brewer said. "They knew the relationship (with Fedora) and that we had worked together. They wanted to know about his offense, how he recruited, those kind of things.''
Fedora was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State between 2005 and 2007. Brewer was the wide receivers coach for the Cowboys during that period.
"We spent about 28, 29 hours a day in that offensive room together,'' Fedora recalled Tuesday. "There were so many conversations I had with Gunter with him saying North Carolina was the best place he'd ever been. Obviously, that planted a seed in my mind.
"I called Gunter when I was thinking about adding him to this staff and he was like, 'I'll crawl back out there.'''
Brewer didn't need to crawl or beg to get back to Chapel Hill. Fedora was significantly impressed with Brewer's record, which features associations with college receiving greats like Randy Moss, Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon.
All three of those players were finalists for the Biletnikoff Award given annually to the nation's top wide receiver.
Fedora believes Brewer's resume will attract quality receivers to UNC.
"I mean, from Randy Moss to Dez Bryant to Justin Blackmon, who just scored three touchdowns (for Oklahoma State) the other night in the Fiesta Bowl,'' Fedora said. "I would think receivers we're going to be recruiting here in the near future would be awful excited to be coached by Gunter Brewer.''
While at UNC, Brewer helped recruit one of the school's all-time great receivers in Hakeem Nicks and coached two of the career receiving leaders in Sam Aiken and Jawarski Pollock.
Two of those three - Aiken and Nicks - are from North Carolina, where Brewer said the search for new receiver talent for Fedora's spread offense will center.
"We do want to recruit nationally, but obviously we're going to start here at home,'' he said. "There have been some great players come out of this state, like the Sam Aikens of the world who played here. He's a guy who was right here next to us and probably wasn't as high recruited as some other guys who were here. But I think you have to start right here next to the house and then branch out.''
In addition to recruiting and evaluating current players since his return to Chapel Hill, Brewer has also served as tour guide for the other coaches.
It's a task he's glad to handle because it allows him to share his knowledge about Chapel Hill and North Carolina.
"I've given them mainly tips about eating places, like Mama Dip's, the Armadillo Grill, Top of the Hill,'' Brewer said. "I've shown some of them the back roads that they can cut through to get to this place or another."
"I'm happy to do it because this is such a great place. I'm thankful for the opportunity to come back here again.''