Bryn Renner’s UNC football career finished
When the North Carolina football team began practice at Navy Field Tuesday afternoon, its veteran starting quarterback of three seasons wasn’t there.
Not taking reps with the first team. Not talking to Offensive Coordinator Blake Anderson. Not on the sidelines.
Instead, after practice was nearly over, redshirt senior Bryn Renner came out to the field he first stepped on as an exuberant freshman in 2009 with red-rimmed eyes, quietly walking up in a sweatsuit instead of pads and the same No. 2 jersey he’s worn for five years.
A hit delivered by N.C. State freshman Monty Nelson late in the third quarter Saturday partially tore Renner’s labrum and fractured his scapula in his left, non-throwing shoulder, ending his season and career in Chapel Hill.
Renner found out Monday but waited to tell his teammates, not wanting to preoccupy a team on its first win streak of the season.
“No one really found out until today,” said Renner, who finishes his UNC career as the most accurate passer in program history, completing 66.5 percent of his attempts. “It was tough to see everybody out here. I came out kind of late because I didn’t want to be a distraction.
“And that’s one thing I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be a distraction to this team. We’re rolling right now.”
The West Springfield, Va. native, who threw for 8,211 yards and 64 touchdown passes in his career, will undergo surgery on his shoulder Wednesday morning performed by Dr. Alex Creighton at UNC Hospitals. Renner said he’ll likely be in a sling in three to four weeks and will be able to start range of motion exercises in December to rehab and prepare for the spring’s NFL combine.
Renner, choking back tears, told reporters after practice Tuesday night that he didn’t think his injury was severe right after it happened.
His shoulder was out of place, and after UNC’s medical staff put it back in, Renner felt he was ready to re-enter the game. He played a brief stint before Anderson took him back out.
In the two snaps he played after the injury, Renner completed a 9-yard pass to T.J. Logan to pick up a first down in his final play wearing a UNC uniform.
“I was hoping and praying that it was minor and he’d be fine the next week,” Anderson said. “Under the circumstances, I’m glad we didn’t do more injury to him. I wouldn’t have been able to look at myself if we would have hurt him worse.”
An MRI taken Sunday showed the damage to his shoulder, but Renner said the doctors won’t know the true extent of the damage until they’re able to get in and take a look.
In high school, Renner had problems with the same shoulder, suffered a similar injury and had the same surgery. He played the rest of his senior season with his shoulder in a harness, but the severity this injury took that option off the table for UNC’s four final games.
“Life isn’t fair,” Renner said. “You deal with the circumstances, but I think it’s definitely grown me up and the maturity level, as far as how to handle certain situations, and it’s built my character and taught me valuable lessons of just keep moving on.
“You can say all that stuff, ‘It’s unfair,’ but I think it’s very fair and I’ve had a great career.”
In spite of a tumultuous tenure including three head coaches, a bowl ban and the exodus of many of the team’s most talented players after last season, Renner remained at UNC after his redshirt junior season to spend one more season as the team’s leader.
“He made the choice to stay,” Anderson said. “You can’t really quantify what it means. We wouldn’t still be sticking together, we would have thrown in the towel a long time ago I think without guys like him and A.J. Blue and (James) Hurst. They mean the world to us.”
With Renner out for the rest of the season, the starting job falls to sophomore Marquise Williams, who’s split time at the positon with Renner for the last month.
Part of the strategy for the two-quarterback system, Anderson said, was insurance in the event a situation like this arose.
“I’m glad that we’ve gotten Marquise as many reps as we’ve gotten him,” Anderson said. “That’s part of the reason that we did. You just felt like the chips were going to fall at some point one way or the other, whether it be (Williams) or Bryn that go down. You just felt like you needed to have them both ready.”
Williams, who got his first start earlier this season against Virginia Tech, looks to Renner as his mentor and role model.
“That’s somebody I’ve always looked up to,” said Williams, his voice shaky. “I’m going to continue to look up to him. That’s my boy, like my big brother from another mother.
“I’m going to keep encouraging him to strive to be the best he is and I’m pretty sure he’s going to do the same for me.”
Though Williams will now take over as the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart, he said team still belongs to No. 2.
“It’s still Bryn Renner’s team and I’m playing for his team, I’m playing for his role,” Williams said. “That’s one thing about it. People are going to say, ‘This is your team now.’ It might be my team as a starter, but overall, it’s Bryn Renner’s team.”