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Sunday June 26th

Star punter Corbin Daly chose UNC football to be closer to his mother

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North Carolina redshirt freshman punter Corbin Daly talks about his skull fracture injury.

They also learn how to pee standing up.

But when the time came for North Carolina punter Corbin Daly to learn what every man must learn, it wasn’t his father who taught him but his single mother Maria Daly, who demonstrated to her young son by using a banana.

“She’s pretty much taught me how to do everything,” Corbin said.

Childhood

Since his parents divorced when he was 1 year old, it’s mostly been Corbin, his older sister Meaghan and their mom. While Maria says she knew what to do for her daughter, raising Corbin was more of a challenge.

“I used to tell a friend of mine, ‘He has to have a dad, and he only has me,’” Maria said.

She tried her best to be both parents, though. She took Corbin to the elementary school across the street to play basketball and throw the football. They took regular trips to Tweetsie Railroad, a train-themed amusement park in Blowing Rock, N.C.

“I didn’t really take it as much as doing the dad role as much as doing what my son needs,” Maria said.

“As a parent, you do whatever you have to do.”

It’s no wonder Corbin says he is one of the biggest momma’s boys around. While some his age might enjoy the time away from their mothers, he can’t go a day without talking to the woman who raised him.

“I call her every day after practice, tell her if I did good, tell her if I did bad, tell her how I can get better,” Corbin said.

“Me and my mom are best friends.”

When Corbin wrecked his bicycle and suffered enough brain damage to send him into a coma, it was his mother sitting beside him when he woke up.

The injury

One day in seventh grade, Corbin pedaled his bike to the top of a hill in his father’s neighborhood. He still can’t explain why he did it, but without his helmet and without his hands on the handlebars, he began his descent.

The next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital bed and turning to see his mother, who told him he had been in a coma for a few days.

Over the next two months, Corbin had to stay in a room with no light or sound because of the damage done to his skull and brain in the accident. After that, doctors told him he could no longer play contact sports. Basketball, soccer and, most of all, football — things Corbin had enjoyed since he was little — were now off-limits.

“Corbin’s very athletic, he’s always been super athletic,” Maria said. “It would kill him if he couldn’t go back into football or do something athletic.”

But the doctors left a loophole. Punting and kicking, the unglamorous positions that didn’t involve hitting, were still open.

“I think God gave that back to him to let him know he could do something else,” Maria said.

The rest of middle school passed by until the time came for eighth-grade graduation. While leaving the school, Corbin’s stepmother saw a sign that said punting and kicking. She suggested he try out.

Eager for anything to get him back on the field, Corbin agreed.

“(I) couldn’t kick the ball off of the ground to save my life, but punting turned out to be the true calling,” Corbin said.

‘A punting sensation’

Corbin became the punter at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte and earned a starting position his sophomore year. He quickly showed he wasn’t a typical high-school punter.

“He always wanted to try and sneak into a drill,” former Coach Adam Hastings said. “(He) wants to hit people.”

Corbin quickly became a punting sensation. After attending his first kicking camp with former UCLA All-American Chris Sailer, Corbin was named the top performer. He was later ranked the No. 2 punter in the country by 247Sports.

Then the big-time college programs started showing interest. Corbin tried out for both Ohio State and Alabama.

In June 2013, Texas came calling on a Tuesday, inviting Corbin to Texas for a camp that Thursday. If he could make it, the Longhorns would offer him a scholarship.

After getting off the phone, Corbin went to his mother and told her the news.

“She was like, ‘What? All right, get in the car, I guess we’re going,’” Corbin said.

The two drove 20 hours straight to get to Texas, where Corbin committed to play for then-head coach Mack Brown.

But even on the drive there, Corbin was having doubts. Twenty hours was a long ways away from home. When the NCAA issues with Brown and Texas came up, it solidified his decision to leave.

Corbin de-committed from Texas, walking away from a guaranteed scholarship. He instead chose to sign with UNC as a preferred walk-on in order to be closer to home. Now, after redshirting his freshman season, Corbin has earned a scholarship and a spot as the Tar Heels’ starting punter, with dreams of much bigger things.

“Corbin’s going to be in the NFL one day, I know it,” Maria said. “That’s been a dream of his forever.”

Punters are hard to project at the next level. Corbin knows he must become consistent and improve the speed of his punting mechanics. If he does, the NFL is a possibility.

“I’ve been thinking about that since I was a kid,” Corbin said. “That’s always been my goal to one day make it to the league.”

Aside from two games she missed with a broken ankle, Maria saw every one of her son’s games in high school. She and several family members will be at Bank of America Stadium when UNC opens its season in Charlotte on Sept. 3. She couldn’t be more excited.

“It’s such a parent high, seeing your son or daughter out there doing what they love,” Maria said.

While both Corbin and Maria are excited for the future, they both acknowledge the difficulties that will arise if Corbin ends up far away.

But she knows when Corbin does go out on his own, it will mean she’s done her job and his father’s job well. She’ll still go to every game, and she’ll still talk to her son every night.

She and her son will still be best friends.

@loganulrich

sports@dailytarheel.com



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