If you’ve turned on a North Carolina football game broadcast in the last 15 months or so, you’ve almost certainly heard someone bring up Chazz Surratt as a go-to talking point.
After two years of ups and downs at quarterback for UNC, Surratt transitioned to linebacker ahead of the 2019 season and thrived in his new role on the defensive side of the ball. And in a 49-9 blowout win over Western Carolina in the 2020 season’s Senior Day, things came full circle for the redshirt senior passer-turned-tackler.
“It’s very, very emotional that their life’s dream was to play here and come here and then all the games that they have that they go back through the memories. And now they don’t get to play ever again,” UNC head coach Mack Brown said.
At the college level, sure, this idea that Saturday marked an ending applies to Surratt. But the NFL prospect has a chance to continue his career at the next level, and many project him to be taken by the second round of this year’s draft.
“For Chazz to be able to come in and embrace the change and be physical and work out and have instincts, it’s just been amazing for me to watch,” Brown said of Surratt’s career in a press conference earlier this week. “...I’m so excited for him. I can’t wait to watch him in the future.”
But before Surratt became a first-team All-ACC defender, before he finished runner-up in the ACC Defensive Player of the Year race, before he racked up six total tackles in the first half of today’s win and sat out of the shellacking by halftime, his last somewhat impactful game as a UNC quarterback was against the Catamounts.
As a redshirt first-year, Surratt was three weeks removed from a game-ending injury when he took the field near the end of the 2017 season as UNC’s quarterback against WCU with a 52-7 lead in the final frame.
In just a handful of plays, he found wide receiver Beau Corrales down the sideline for a 44-yard touchdown pass. Surratt also showed his wheels when he took off for a 59-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Tar Heels’ next drive.
It was clear Surratt had at least some potential as a quarterback.
And then it was over.
He only played in the Miami game in 2018 and injured his wrist in the loss to the point where it required season-ending surgery. The rest — his return to the field and adaptation to the linebacker spot — is history.
“It’s been a journey. It’s been up and down. I’m just thankful for the relationships I’ve built with the coaching staff here and teammates,” Surratt said in a press conference leading up to Senior Day.
Although Surratt’s latest contest against the Catamounts ended with a similar result to that 2017 game, things are completely different for the redshirt senior.
For one, his team is better. Just three seasons later, UNC’s seniors rose from a 3-9 record to No. 17 in the College Football Playoff rankings ahead of a regular season finale against No. 10 Miami with Capital One Orange Bowl appearance implications on the line.
“The experience, in general, has been almost overwhelming because of all the love and appreciation we’ve gotten as a senior class,” senior running back Michael Carter said.
Surratt’s reincarnation as a defensive player gave him the opportunity to be a leader for the Tar Heels in a way that allowed this Senior Day win to mean more to him as he winds down his college career in preparation for the NFL.
“I thought it was emotional being my last time out there with this group of guys, especially,” he said. “It’s been a pretty good year, so I was just looking forward to the whole thing; the videos, everything, the senior stuff that was going on all week. It was a good feeling to walk off with a W in my last time here.”
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