On the surface, a 7-6 season is anything but spectacular. But for the North Carolina football team — which had won just five games total in its previous two seasons — 2019's result sent shock waves through a program that desperately needed a jolt of excitement.
In head coach Mack Brown’s first season back in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels put together a winning record for the first time in three years, won their first bowl game since 2013 and unified a previously dormant fan base in the belief that Mack was back.
The Tar Heels were led by quarterback Sam Howell, who put together a record-setting campaign in his first season in Chapel Hill. The first-year — who flipped his commitment from national power Florida State after Brown was chosen to helm UNC — threw for 3,641 yards and an FBS true first-year record 38 touchdowns on his way to winning ACC Rookie of the Year.
But the player perhaps most representative of North Carolina’s culture change was junior Chazz Surratt. When Surratt started his career as a Tar Heel in 2017, he was a quarterback. After appearing in 10 games across two years behind center, he moved to linebacker in 2019.
Surratt filled his new role within North Carolina’s defense effectively from day one. After a relatively average tenure as quarterback for UNC, the junior became one of the Tar Heels’ best players, notching a team-best 115 total tackles, 6.5 sacks and intercepting a would-be game-winning pass from Duke’s Deon Jackson at the goal line to win the Victory Bell.