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Sunday April 2nd

SportsSaturday - Bomars Bond Over Football

Gayle Bomar didn't realize it was his son at first.

Somebody on the North Carolina defense had stopped N.C. State wideout Chris Coleman just shy of the end zone. But from his seat in the stands last Nov. 11, Bomar wasn't quite sure who made the play.

He had no clue that his son, David - a one-time walk-on starting the third game of his career at safety - was the one who had swooped in and tackled Coleman six inches short of a touchdown with 1:28 left in the game.

"To be honest about it, it was at the other end of the field where I was sitting," he said. "I saw it happen, but it wasn't clear, so I really didn't know until I saw the replay of it and saw the newspaper pictures."

One of those pictures now hangs framed in Gayle Bomar's office on Franklin Street, where the former UNC quarterback works as a stockbroker.

The image the photo captures - David driving Coleman back while UNC cornerback Errol Hood clings to the receiver's jersey - serves as a constant reminder of the night that has become a part of Tobacco Road football lore.

That tackle preserved a 10-6 UNC win and saved UNC coach Carl Torbush's job, while costing Wolfpack coach Mike

O'Cain his.

It's a game that David, now a senior, still has trouble putting into words. He racked up 19 tackles (eight solo) against the 'Pack to earn ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors.

"It just seemed like everything that came my way ended up positive for me somehow," Bomar said. "I just felt like I really wasn't focusing on X's and O's, doing this and doing that - just trying to go out there and go to the ball. It was unbelievable."

It was that kind of season.

Bomar averaged 14.3 tackles in the last four games of 1999 after taking over for Quinton Savage, who lacerated his kidney during the Wake Forest game.

With Savage's health too precarious to allow him back on the field, Bomar has assumed starting duties at strong safety this season.

It hasn't been the easiest of transitions. There's more pressure, and even though redshirt freshman Dexter Reid has replaced him in man-to-man coverage situations, Bomar knows that he's expected to be in the right place at the right time when he's out on the field.

Kind of like he was one night last November.

But his confidence has increased, he said, and he's enjoying his role on the team to the fullest.

"I feel like I'm part of something, rather than stepping in to something that wasn't really mine last year," said Bomar, whose 28 tackles rank fifth on the team. "I take a little bit more pride in it this year."

Bomar wasn't always so secure.

There were times when he wanted to quit the team - times when playing on special teams just didn't seem like enough incentive to give up almost all of his free time.

One of those times was the spring of 1998. His freshman season had passed, and Bomar's chances of becoming an everyday position player looked bleak.

Confused about what he wanted to do, he talked to the man that had always served as a fountain of advice and encouragement, the man ranked 14th on UNC's career total offense list. His dad.

Gayle Bomar told David that he believed in him. He told his son to stay patient. He reminded him that he had once been in a similar situation, working his way up from fifth-string to starting safety his sophomore year at UNC when his coaches wanted to redshirt him.

The talk did the trick. David stayed on the team, worked hard and kept his mouth shut. He earned a scholarship prior to last season and, from that point on, any remaining thoughts of leaving the team vanished.

"My dad's been pretty much my right hand man the whole way through here," David said. "Having the guys and everything is great, but when I needed to talk, he's the person I would go talk to."

Football has always been at the heart of relationship between the Bomar men.

When the lettermen in the area would be invited to act as hosts for visiting recruits before UNC home games, Gayle would always bring his young sons, David and J.P., along with him to Kenan Stadium.

They would serve food and drinks to the recruits, then watch the game from the sidelines.

David's favorite player when he was 10, defensive back Torin Dorn - who captained the 1989 team and would go on to a seven-year career in the NFL - even gave his young admirer his chin strap after one of those games.

"I think I still have it back home," David said, "and I actually wore it a couple of times in high school."

Memories such as these that all three men have of those days are partly why it was so difficult when J.P., who played for UNC for two years, decided to leave the team before this season began.

J.P., a grade below David, was supposed to start on special teams this year, but his grades were slipping and he missed seeing his friends. The thought of actually having to quit, however, left him physically ill for weeks.

Finally, midway through two-a-days in August, the Bomar men went out to eat at Hams restaurant. J.P. told his brother and his father what was making him so sick. They told him he had to do whatever made him happy. All three men cried.

"It was real hard," J.P. said. "Having to tell my dad I wasn't going to play football anymore was a pretty tough thing."

David has done his best to be there for his brother, like his dad has always been there for both of them.

"He's just been real supportive, stressing that I need to get my grades up, for one thing," J.P. said. "And he reiterates that I have two more years that I could come back and play if that's what I feel like I want to do. But if not, he said just keep on enjoying what I'm doing."

Meanwhile, David will do the same - even with the pressure of an encore against State coming today.


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