Updated: Sep 6, 2020
As we enter May, it's time for the annual offseason series. This year, we're going in-depth with a look at the best player to ever where each jersey number. This is a ten part series where we will go ten numbers at a time for ten weeks. This week, we look at the best to wear numbers 11-20 in Tar Heel football history.
#11: Lou Angelo
While the No. 11 isn’t nearly as decorated as some of the others on campus, a few of the best players to play at their respective positions have donned this number. Both Casey Barth and Lou Angelo had great careers in the jersey and as hard as it was to decide between the two, we had to go with Angelo by the thinnest of margins. In his three year career at Carolina, Angelo started every game and set school records for interceptions in a season with eight in 1972 and career interceptions with 16, both numbers which have only been topped by Dre Bly in the program’s history. Angelo earned first team All-ACC honors in 1972 following his phenomenal senior season.
#12: Leon Johnson
This might just be the most decorated number in program history. Underappreciated guys like Kory Bailey and Paul Miller both had productive careers in the jersey and the Kupec brothers both had plenty of success in their time wearing the number. The toughest decision, though, comes down to three of the most decorated program history. Ethan Horton has his number in the ring of honor after landing ACC Player of the Year honors in 1984 and putting together a strong career in the jersey, but with Leon Johnson being the more complete running back, Horton is out of the running. Both Johnson and Marquise Williams put together legendary careers in the jersey, but, by the slimmest of margins, I’ll give the edge to Johnson. He set and still holds the program record for scrimmage yards and total touchdowns by a non-quarterback, finishing his career with 4,981 yards and 47 touchdowns on 948 touches. Johnson finished each of his four seasons with more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage and at least nine touchdowns, the only player in program history to accomplish that feat. Johnson earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 1993 along with second team All-ACC honors, one of three times that he landed on an All-ACC team.
#13: T.J. Yates
We go from arguably the most decorated number in program history to a number that is a little scarce on success. Cedrick Holt had a solid career in the jersey in the mid-2000s and Mack Hollins is one of the best deep threats to ever grace a Tar Heel uniform, but T.J. Yates, the program leading all-time passer is the choice here. Yates still holds the program record for passing yards in a career after throwing for 9,377 yards and 58 touchdowns in his four seasons as the Tar Heels starter. In his freshman season, he broke multiple freshman program records previously held by Darian Durant, before piecing together the most successful career of any Tar Heel quarterback at the time.
#14: Quinshad Davis
The No. 14 might not be the most decorated in program history, but there is some nice success here. Both Scott Stankavage and Mark Maye put together good careers under center in the number, while Marcus Wall was able to have a productive career at wide receiver and returning kicks. However, Quinshad Davis is the way to go here. One of the most decorated receivers in program history, Davis is still the program’s record holder for career touchdown receptions with 25 and sits second in program history in career receptions and third in receiving yards. Davis also holds the freshman records for receptions and receiving yards for a freshman, a season where he caught 61 passes for 776 yards and earned an honorable mention on the freshman All-American team. Davis would also earn third team All-ACC honors in 2015 as a senior.
#15: Chris Keldorf
This is another one where there was a case for multiple players that were hard to pick between. Both Victor Bullock and Donnie Miles had plenty of success in their time in the jersey, but the two quarterbacks on the list compiled better resumes. Based solely on quarterback play, Chris Keldorf would be the easy choice, but Mike Thomas not only had success at quarterback, he was also starter at punter for three years. It was an extremely difficult discussion, but we’ll go with Keldorf based on the small advantage in overall success. Keldorf came to Carolina as a transfer prior to his junior season, but wasted no time becoming one of the program's best quarterbacks ever. Keldorf’s 35 career passing touchdowns set a program record at the time and still remain seventh in program history and his 3,795 passing yards are tenth in program history. His 1996 season is still one of the tops in program history, as he threw for 2,347 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions on the way to being a Davey O’Brien semifinalist and a first team All-ACC member.
#16: Kendric Burney
This might be the least decorated number that we’ve looked at so far, but our pick here still had plenty of success. While both Howard Feggins and Jacoby Watkins had solid careers in the number, Kendric Burney remains one of the best cornerbacks to put on a Tar Heel uniform. Burney was a four-year starter for the Tar Heels, finishing his career with 209 total tackles, 17.0 tackles for a loss and 11 interceptions, the latter of which is tied for the eighth most in program history. Of those eleven career interceptions, three of them were taken back to the house for touchdowns and he finished 358 career interception return yards, a number that ranks second-best in ACC history. Burney earned All-ACC honors twice in his career, earning first team honors in his junior year.
This is another number that is relatively thin on overall success, but has some decent contributors at the top. Zack Pianalto is one of the top tight ends in program history and Clint Gwaltney finished his career with two very strong years in the jersey. Anthony Ratliff-Williams had a strong two year stretch to close his career, as well, while donning the jersey, but the guy we’ll go with here is another guy who spent his final two seasons in the jersey in Tommy Barnhardt. Barnhardt was a three-year starter at punter, but his most successful came while wearing the No. 17. In his two seasons in the jersey, Barnhardt averaged 42.4 yards per punt on his 120 punts. As a senior, Barnhardt earned first team All-ACC while averaging 41.5 yards per punt on 68 punts.
This is yet another very thin number overall. Both Kenny Miller and Michael Waddell both had plenty of success in the jersey, but Na Brown is a tier above both of these guys. Brown still ranks inside the top ten in all three of the major receiving categories in a career after finishing his career with 165 receptions for 2,086 yards and 14 touchdowns. Brown finished each of his final three seasons with at least 50 catches, 500 yards and four touchdowns, but was somehow never rewarded with All-ACC honors.
The No. 19 has been a temporary number for a lot of guys, so this was a difficult one. Dazz Newsome had some middle success in the jersey before his move out of the jersey this past year. Both Danny Burmeister and Jon Richardson had decent careers in the jersey, as did Terrence Brown. The choice here, though, is Tripp Pignetti, who spent his final three seasons in the jersey. Pignetti’s 38 made field goals are the sixth-most in program history and his 79.2% field goal percentage is the third-best field goal percentage of any field goal kicker with 20 or more field goal attempts. Pignetti never missed more than five goals in a season during his final three years and he finished his career with 229 points in his career.
#20: Amos Lawrence
We finish up this part of the series with another number that’s in the contention for the most decorated number in program history. The No. 20 has seen a ton of successful running backs toat the rock, including names like Natrone Means, Jacque Lewis and Shaun Draughn. However, there is one running back that stands out amongst the group. Amos Lawrence, the program rusher, is the undoubted choice here. Lawrence tallied 4,391 rushing yards in his career, a number that only one Tar Heel running back has come even remotely close to challenging. Lawrence also holds the record for career rushing attempts with 881 and his 28 career rushing touchdowns are tied with fellow legend Charlie Justice for eighth-most in program history. Lawrence is only one of two Tar Heel running backs to run for 1,000 or more yards in every one of his active seasons with the Tar Heels and is the only one to do it in four straight seasons.