First Person: Genuine Fedora
There are a lot of interesting things about new head coach Larry Fedora. But my personal favorite part of anything he’s said or done since he arrived in Chapel Hill is how much he cares about this team, and in a genuine way.
With supposedly scandalous news breaking seemingly every week this past summer, it has become easier and easier to forget about who this kind of news impacts the most. Ever since the NCAA first set foot in Chapel Hill, it has been about which authority figure knew what and when. That’s fine, and understandable, when news like this is breaking. But the 2010 Tar Heels - the innocent ones, as it were, that were left on that team - were the forgotten ones.
It was hard not to fall in love with that 2010 group if you were a Carolina fan. Nationally, people may not have cared about them. Locally, reporters covered that part of the story, but they were still looking into the potential (and actual) NCAA violations.
Meanwhile, quarterback T.J. Yates and company went out every week and pulled out some improbable wins while nearly pulling out what would have been the most improbable one of them all in the opener against LSU. They handled the barrage of questions about NCAA issues with grace and good humor, and just continued to go out and win in spite of everything.
Last year, the feel-good story turned into something else. Everett Withers was the interim head coach, and losing their head coach weeks before the season seemed to be too much for the group to take. They weren’t having any fun. They went through the motions, and they gave their best effort. But that extra spark wasn’t there like it was in 2010.
Maybe it took Fedora’s arrival for that to change. “I think all these kids bought in from the very start. I think they were hungry to have some stability in the program. They just wanted to move forward,” Fedora said at ACC Kickoff. “There were so many things happening around the program and they were the forgotten ones. Everybody was talking about everything else, but they didn’t really talk about the team and what was going on with them and not knowing who your coaches are going to be.
“If you’ve ever played college football, you’re four years with a man that you build a relationship with and he becomes a father-like figure to you. To not have that is a tough thing. I think these guys, when we step foot on campus I think they totally jumped in right away. That was kind of a surprise to me.”
For so long, it seemed that every time there was a break in the steady stream of bad news surrounding Carolina football, something else would come out. The players grew weary of it. The fans have grown weary of it. But Fedora knows that this team will face adversity. And he has his own ways of dealing with that.
“This is now 26 years of college football. I’ve never been through a game where you don’t have adversity. So it’s preparing your guys for facing adversity, and that starts back in the off-season with your winter conditioning and how hard you push your guys,” Fedora said. “You’re preparing them each and every day and then making them understand, guys, why do you dread adversity? Why do we dread it? Why does our society dread adversity? It’s what brings out the best in you.
“When your back’s against the wall, that’s what brings out the best in you. I’m teaching them each and every day, hey, adversity is going to hit. It’s coming, it’s around the corner, so when it does, look it in the eye, grab it by the throat, choke it and just move on. Let’s go.”
He said that back in July. Come game week, he’s still that enthusiastic motivator. On Monday, he admitted that he won’t know much about this team’s identity until the ball is kicked off on Saturday. But he does know something that all Carolina fans should know, too: they need someone to love them. And thankfully, they’ve found him.
“The biggest thing: they’re hungry. They’ve been hungry for someone to care about them. They’re hungry for something positive to happen in their lives. They’re eager to please. They want to do things the way we ask them to do them,” Fedora said.