Before the start of training camp Shaun Draughn had something to prove.
He was a sophomore safety buried on the depth chart" and it looked like he was headed for another year of thankless special teams play.
Until he marched into head coach Butch Davis' office — high school highlight reel in hand — and asked to play running back.
Draughn said he didn't know at the time whether Davis believed he could play the position at the college level.
""But just having the confidence in my ability to know what I can do" I mean I just went up and asked" he said.
Now fast-forward to last weekend. North Carolina was 3-1 and facing nationally ranked Connecticut.
After consistently generating buzz from the coaching staff during training camp, Draughn had elevated himself to second on the running back depth chart.
But that wasn't enough. There was more to show.
I feel like before the game" I had something to prove" he said.
Early and often against the Huskies, he got the chance to prove what he'd been lobbying for since the summer. And he did just that.
Draughn rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries — an average of 5.7 yards per carry — including a 39-yard touchdown scamper in UNC's win.
His work in the running game, for the first time this year, actually carried the offense — a fact that did not escape the notice of quarterback Cam Sexton.
I was telling (Brandon) Tate and Brooks (Foster) and Hakeem (Nicks)" we've got points and we haven't really done anything" Sexton said of the passing game. I think we set up some of those things. I think we got some of the momentum going.
""But I think the running game and the guys up front really drove us tonight.""
Son of a preacher
Shaun Draughn is a momma's boy — he said so himself.
Both of Draughn's parents are ministers in his tiny hometown of Tarboro" N.C. His father Kenneth started his own church" where his mother also preaches.
So what was life like growing up as two preachers' son?
""Everybody thinks it's strict" but it's not" Draughn said.
I was the bad one. My sisters he didn't have to worry about.""
Tarboro running backs should be familiar to Tar Heel football fans as former star Kelvin Bryant also hailed from the eastern N.C. town. Bryant rushed for three consecutive 1""000-yard seasons at UNC and was named one of the ACC's Top 50 players of all-time in 2002.
And the former UNC great paid a compliment to his Tarboro heir apparent.
""He watched me in high school and was like" ‘You remind me of me"'"" Draughn said.
Another statement game
After Draughn's performance last weekend" he ranks second on the team with 213 rushing yards. Greg Little who began the season in the starting role has 240 yards — on 23 more carries.
Draughn has used his explosiveness and a quick first step to hit holes in the line before they close up enabling him to find rushing lanes. The 6-foot 205-pounder has also shown an ability to run downhill and fall forward through tackles.
Davis still isn't ready though" to put the entire weight of the rushing game on Draughn's shoulders.
""We're going to play the guys at the time that gives us the best chance to win"" Davis said.
What Davis does know, though, is that when a no-name safety entered his office during the offseason, the player he called an unknown commodity"" would become an essential part of his ground game.
""If you would have asked me six weeks ago what kind of contribution Shaun Draughn was going to make" I don't know what I would have told you" Davis said.
But sometimes you walk around and you find money lying on the ground. You get lucky.""
Going into today's game against Notre Dame" Draughn will likely be trying to prove something to somebody. After all this silencing of doubters both real and imagined seems to drive him.
There is always something to prove" always somebody to win over.
""Every game is a statement game" Draughn said.
But don't let that intensity be misleading. Draughn is still a small-town kid who just enjoys the game of football.
I read a quote about it Draughn recalled. Coach Davis said I'm probably as happy as a kid at Christmas time" and I really feel like that.
""Football is a passion of mine"" and I love doing it. I love playing.""