They came in together as two wide-eyed first-years and now will leave the North Carolina football team having accomplished every young football player's dream — hearing their names called in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Three UNC players were picked in the draft — seniors M.J. Stewart and Austin Proehl and junior Andre Smith. Stewart and Proehl were sophomores on a squad that reached the ACC Championship game and produced its first ten-win season since 1997, Mack Brown’s last year as head coach.
Stewart heard his name called first in the second round, as the 53rd pick of the draft. UNC’s all-time leader in pass breakups will head to Florida to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coached by Dirk Koetter, the father of UNC volleyball player Kendra Koetter.
Stewart became the first Tar Heel defensive back drafted since 2014, when Tre Boston and Jabari Price heard their names called. In his last year in Chapel Hill, Stewart broke up 12 passes, finishing his career with the program mark of 41. He also collected 45 tackles and two sacks and earned honorable mention All-ACC marks for the second straight season. As a sophomore, Stewart was named to the All-ACC second team.
Smith was the next Tar Heel to hear his name called, heading to Charlotte to play for the Carolina Panthers. As a sophomore, the linebacker ranked second on the team with 113 tackles, including six tackles for loss. The junior didn’t miss a beat in his first two games this season, intercepting a pass and returning it 73 yards in the season opener against California and posting 21 tackles in two contests. But his season abruptly came to a halt when he suffered a season-ending injury against Louisville.