Illinois: Jason Stanicek
North Carolina needed someone to step up and make something happen at quarterback during the 1991 season, so Mack Brown called on freshman Jason Stanicek to see if he could get the Tar Heels moving.
Stanicek wasn’t great closing out the season, but he showed some signs of bigger things to come and Brown stuck with him. By the end of Stanicek’s career, the Park Forest, IL, native passed Carolina legend Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice as UNC’s all-time leader in total yards, finishing his career with 5,497.
Not as highly touted as some other Carolina QBs, Stanicek was confident he could play in the ACC but understood it would take some time to develop into a record setter.
“I always thought I could play at that level from an athletic standpoint,” Stanicek said. “But I think you learn there is a difference in thinking you can play at that level and then learning how to play consistently well.
“I was sorta thrown in my freshman year and was just playing and hoping to play well. It took some time to figure out how to play consistently well which comes with maturity from a physical and mental standpoint. It took my sophomore season to figure that out. By the time I was a junior I was ready to play consistently well.”
Justice’s mark stood for 45 years, and while Stanicek was building toward his own legacy, he was serving as a vital component to the program's resurgence under Brown. Carolina finished 7-4 in Stanicek’s freshman season and in 1992 he helped lead the Heels to a 9-3 mark, including a win over Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl and the No. 18 spot in the final AP rankings.
Perhaps the signature game during Stanicek’s UNC career came in the 1993 season opener. The No. 20 Tar Heels took on No. 18 Southern Cal in the Disney Pigskin Classic, one of a couple nationally televised games staged the week before the rest of the nation opened their seasons.
The Tar Heels throttled the Trojans, 31-9, running the ball for 291 yards courtesy of Stanicek’s legs to a degree, but also his reads and pitches expertly executing UNC’s option offense. USC had no answers to defend it.
“I think that game gave our program a lot of confidence,” Stanicek said. “We had some big wins the prior season (Georgia Tech, Virginia, bowl), but we did lose some key players and leaders from that team. It was like another bowl game. So, this game really gave our program some validity but gave that team an identity for the rest of the season.
“What stood out though was how well we executed defensively and how well we ran the option. We spent a lot of time in the off season working on the option knowing we didn’t have that proven dominant back like Natrone (Means). We needed to isolate some of their defenders and the option was able to do that well and then it just becomes a matter as a QB to being patient and making good decisions. But that game proved the option offense was going to be an effective offense for us.”
And it certainly was along with how UNC used all of its many weapons. Carolina scored 40 or more points six times that season and defensively held opponents to 10 or fewer points five times. That team finished 10-3 after losing to Alabama in the Gator Bowl. It was the first of three double-digit win seasons under Brown.
Stanicek was second-team All-ACC quarterback behind Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward in 1993 and still owns the program record for most wins by a starting quarterback with 24.
He completed 59.8 percent of his pass attempts over his 43-game career, threw for 4,683 yards, 26 touchdowns and ran for 814 yards scoring eight times. One stat that couldn’t be measured was his leadership, though that somewhat comes out in the win-loss column, and with the Heels going 34-14 during Stanicek’s career, it’s fair to say he did well on that front, too.
A team-first guy back then and those are the memories he first recalls now, as much as the numbers and records may matter to him two-plus decades later, Stanicek begins with something else when asked about his best memories of playing football at Carolina.
“I’m most proud of helping the program, coaches, admin build a successful and consistent top 20 program that helped propel the program to two top 10 finishes,” he said. “Being a part of that was great. Part of the reason I came to Carolina was to help build something."
Currently based in the Raleigh area, Stanicek is Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor for CAPTRUST. He has been awarded numerous honors in his profession, including Barron’s Top 50 Institutional Consultants in 2018 and in 20012 he was recognized as one of the Top 50 Advisors Nationwide by the 401kWire.