CHARLOTTE — Tre Boston saw Brendon Kay’s pass sail well over its mark and steer course directly toward Dominique Green. He saw the ball deflect off of the North Carolina freshman’s fingertips, and he saw it as a sign from God — a blessing — that the ball suddenly floated toward him.
He wrapped his hands around it — the last football he’d touch in a collegiate game — and he didn’t let go of it. He held onto it even as the referee asked him to return it. And after the offense finished off UNC’s 39-17 win against Cincinnati on the ensuing drive, and after the Tar Heels celebrated their 2013 Belk Bowl Championship in on-field ceremony, he still had that same ball in his hands, standing outside of the UNC locker room, smiling and showing it off to Cincinnati players as they walked by.
“I gotta put it up in the shrine,” said Boston, as he held the ball out in front of him. “My mom has a nice little trophy case for me since I was a little kid. I gotta put this in the case.”
For the senior safety, the interception ball symbolized a reward for what he called four crazy years at UNC. There was the NCAA investigation that landed UNC with probation and a postseason ban a year ago. There were the coaching changes: Butch Davis then Everett Withers and now Larry Fedora. Even this season — with UNC free from its bowl ban — the Tar Heels had more than their fair share of struggles, beginning the season 1-5, then losing starting quarterback Bryn Renner to a season-ending shoulder injury Nov. 2.
“I promise you, next year will be even better,” Fedora screamed over the Bank of America Stadium PA system, drenched in blue Gatorade, following the victory. His players put on their white Belk Bowl championship hats and ran to their home end zone, jumping up over the wall to high-five enthusiastic UNC fans.