A year ago, things couldn't have been more different. UNC had just one win over an FBS team and finished the season with an embarrassing fight against N.C. State after the Wolfpack scored a walk-off touchdown in overtime.
Former head coach Larry Fedora was fired within a day, and North Carolina looked to be a program with a whole lot of questions and very few answers about what came next.
Enter Brown, who injected a new swagger into the program he oversaw once before, alongside a host of other new football minds.
"It's his emphasis on having fun, it's huge," Carter said after UNC's first bowl win since 2013. "It's his belief in us, to the point where we're down (11) against South Carolina, the fourth quarter starts and he's like 'Hey, we're gonna win the football game.'
"Alright, yeah. Let's do it. Let's win then."
UNC's season has been exhilarating, win or lose. Nearly every game was decided by a touchdown or less, until the Tar Heels found their footing and annihilated their last three opponents, outscoring them 152-30 collectively.
"To win the first bowl game I think since 2013, these guys, they'll remember that the rest of their lives," Brown said. "We said you remember who you are the rest of your life. And that's the last time that this team will ever be together. And that's very emotional."
But if there were any emotions other than pure joy following the game, it was impossible to tell from the players after the game. Instead of being melancholy about the players who were soon to be leaving, it was a time to celebrate all that they accomplished during their time at UNC.
Graduating players like Charlie Heck, Antonio Williams, Myles Dorn, Jason Strowbridge and Aaron Crawford were as instrumental in turning around the program, and making it into a family in the process, as anybody.
"Seven is not enough anymore. You want to go to a bowl every year and get a streak of wins," Brown said. "And for the rest of Myles' life, and those seniors lives, they can say ... they started North Carolina back in the right direction."
Any future success, which admittedly looks like it is approaching, will be built on the backs of those soon-to-be gone players. But the seniors know what they accomplished.
"We created an identity for ourselves, and I think the players know what is expected in the years moving forward, that they have to go up from here," Dorn said. "It's no backing down, no going the other way."
Friday was the last day this team, as it existed for 60 minutes of game time in Annapolis, will be together. Carter, Javonte Williams, Newsome and Dyami Brown will all be back to complement Howell next year, and UNC's offense is nothing if not promising with those five in tow.
But anyone who paid attention to what happened in 2019 will be able to remember the first time they realized Javonte Williams could really play like that, or that Sam Howell was legit.
But most importantly, they'll be able to think, "Damn. That was fun."
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