UNC stands to benefit if Trubisky picked No. 1

Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora said his program would be "legitimized" if the Cleveland Browns make his former quarterback the first player taken in the NFL draft

Ivan Pierre Aguirre—USA Today Sports
Dec 30

Although it’s not as certain as it seemed earlier in the day, there’s still a chance that North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky will be the first player selected in the NFL draft tonight. The benefits associated with that distinction are obvious, especially since Trubisky grew up a fan of the Cleveland Browns, the team expected to take him. But he’s not the only one that stands to benefit. Even though his early departure has left his now former college team with an unexpected void at the most important position on the field, the Tar Heels also stand to gain from having one of their own tabbed as the top overall pick. “All of our players are the greatest ambassadors of our program and to have a group of young men this year that are probably going to get drafted, Mitch probably being the highest, is good for our program,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said on a teleconference Tuesday. “It legitimizes the program and the things that we’re doing, where players out there can see that you can come to the University of North Carolina, you can reach all your dreams and goals, that you will be developed into being the best player that you can possibly be.” Trubisky would be the first UNC player ever picked No. 1 in the NFL draft if he is taken by the Browns in Philadelphia tonight. The highest previous selections were running back Ken Willard by the San Francisco 49ers in 1965, Lawrence Taylor by the New York Giants in 1981 and Julius Peppers by the Carolina Panthers in 2002 — all of whom were taken at No. 2. Unlike those other players, who were established stars before their final college season, Trubisky’s ascension to the top of the draft board has been a rapid one. He played only sparingly during his first two seasons at UNC as a backup to Marquise Williams and started only 13 games in his college career. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior set single-season school records with 3,748 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 4,056 yards of total offense while leading the Tar Heels to eight wins and a trip to the Sun Bowl. Despite his relative lack of experience, his college coach believes that Trubisky has everything it takes to be a successful NFL quarterback. “(He’s) a very, very competitive, level-headed young man who can make every throw there is,” Fedora said. “He’s got the will to win. He has all the intangibles. He’s the more accurate quarterback I’ve been around in my 30 years of coaching. He’s just a winner is what he is and he has a very unique unique temperament.” Fedora said that whichever team takes Trubisky is “getting a guy that can be successful for a long time in that league, a guy that can — because of his work ethic and his study habits and will to be great — (be) a great quarterback.” A growing number of media outlets, including Cleveland.com, are reporting that the Browns have locked in on taking Trubisky No. 1 overall tonight. While it’s yet to be seen how his selection will be received by a majority of the team’s long-suffering supporters, at least one fan would be ecstatic over the choice. “I try not to look too far down the road, but if that opportunity comes I think it would be a dream come true to go back home and play for the hometown team,” Trubisky, who grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Mentor, Ohio, said back in October. “Honestly, it would really be a blessing to play anywhere in the NFL and have that opportunity to play at the highest level.” Trubisky is one of several UNC players expected to be drafted over the next three days. The others are defensive tackle Nazair Jones, wide receivers Ryan Switzer, Mac Hollins and Bug Howard, running backs Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan and offensive lineman Jon Heck. That haul of NFL prospects is a positive Fedora can use to his advantage as he works to counteract the negative recruiting efforts of rivals still using UNC’s ongoing case with the NCAA against him and his program. “I’m excited about that,” Fedora said. “I’m really excited for each and every one of these guys, because they’re reaching their dreams. They’re pursuing dreams that they’ve been pursuing since they’ve been very young, and that reality is starting to happen for them.”