No. 8: Kelvin Bryant
*Publisher's note: THI is ranking the top 25 football players in UNC history, gauging each player solely on their careers as Tar Heels. NFL accomplishments do not factor into these rankings.
Name: Kelvin Bryant
Jersey #: 44
Honors: Three-time, first-team All-ACC; Named to the 50-year 50 Greatest ACC Players Ever team; NC Sports Hall of Fame.
Notable Stats: 3,267 career rushing yards (5th all-time at UNC); Ran for 100-plus yards in a game 19 times; Averaged 5.5 yards on 599 career attempts; Scored 32 rushing TDs and six receiving ones; Caught 44 passes for 503 yards (11.4 per); 4,770 total offensive yards; Still holds NCAA record for most touchdowns in a two-game stretch (11) and a three-game stretch (15).
In Closing: In 1981, Bryant was one of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy after he scored 15 touchdowns in UNC’s first three games. In the fourth game, after a 29-yard run at Georgia Tech, he injured his knee, missed four games and wasn’t 100 percent when he returned. He still passed the 1,000-yard mark that season. In fact, he ran for 1,000 yards in three different seasons. Bryant also caught 24 passes for 249 yards and four scores as a senior, setting an NFL career as an all-purpose back.
The Tar Heels averaged 53.7 points in the first three games of the 1981 season while Bryant racked up 15 touchdowns and 520 rushing yards versus East Carolina, Miami (Ohio), and Boston College. Over the rest of the season with either an absent or banged up Bryant, the Tar Heels averaged just 23.8 points per contest.
Had Bryant not gotten injured, the Tar Heels could have played for the national championship that season instead of Clemson, which won the title two-plus months after beating the Heels in Kenan by a 10-8 score. Kelvin Bryant was as good as any other Tar Heel minus the injury. Had that not occurred, he might rank at this very top of this list.