UNC enjoys Belk Bowl experience

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Members of the UNC football team also visited Seacrest Studios in Levine Children’s Hospital and went on air to talk about their upcoming bowl game.

At Friday morning’s Belk Bowl media day, junior tight end Eric Ebron repeated over and over that Saturday’s matchup with Cincinnati is just another game.

But what regular game has its own media day at a downtown pizza joint? A shopping spree? A NASCAR ride-along experience?

The week-long hoopla is reserved for only one game — the Belk Bowl.

“The other morning we went out to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, got to race cars and then we got to go practice, so you get the best of both worlds,” senior defensive end Kareem Martin said.

Today’s game marks the first postseason foray for North Carolina (6-6) in two years after serving a one-season bowl game ban last season.

The last time UNC experienced the festive bowl atmosphere, freshman All-American Ryan Switzer was a junior at West Virginia’s George Washington High School. This season, Switzer, bestowed with a bevy of top honors after a standout freshman campaign, leaped headfirst into the activities.

The punt-return specialist belted his rendition of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” at Levine’s Children Hospital Wednesday, a performance inspired by Switzer’s roommate wide receiver Jordan Fieulleteau.

“My roommate Jordan Fieulleteau is a big Bieber fan, and we’ve got a couple of speakers in our room, and it’s constantly on,” Switzer said. “24 hours in a day, 13 hours or so, it’s on.”

Switzer wasn’t the only Tar Heel to show off his singing voice this week. At the team’s Christmas dinner, the position groups transformed into troubadours.

Coach Larry Fedora shook his head when asked about the performances and laughed.

“The tight ends had the toughest job because the tape didn’t work and they had to do it a capella,” he said. “And they were really bad, but they had to do it a capella.

“Really the coaches were the best anyway. We were ‘Silent Night,’ and we did a great job at it. In fact, there’s probably a bunch of people that want to hire us to do that.”

Fedora’s favorite activity was the NASCAR ride-along experience at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“That’s something that I think every one of our players will remember their entire life. That was a wow factor for me.”

Fedora, known for his love of speed, said his car got up to 170 mph, much faster than the Tar Heels.

“That was faster,” he said. “There were a lot more G forces in going in those curves than there are on our practice field.”

If any of the players were apprehensive about buckling up and flying around the track at break-neck speeds, it didn’t show.

“I was all for it from the moment they told us we were going,” Martin said. “It’s one of the few times in your life that you’ll be able to go that fast legally.”

In a few hours the Tar Heels will take the field at the Bank of America Stadium against a similarly fast-paced Cincinnati team.

And despite a week of distractions, Ebron said UNC is ready.

“It’s just like any other game, nothing different other than we have a lot more distractions,” he said. “We’re grown men so we know how to avoid those and do other things. We just treat it like any other game.”

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