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 41-50 in Tar Heel football history.
#41: Brian Simmons
We start this edition of the series with a number that has seen plenty of success, especially in the linebacking corps. From Troy Simmons to Ray Jacobs and Quincy Monk to Mark Paschal, this has been a number that has seen star linebackers donning it for decades. The man that tops the list is Brian Simmons. Arguably the best all-around athlete the Tar Heels have ever seen on the defensive side of the football, Simmons was a standout in the middle of the Tar Heel defense from 1994 to 1997. Simmons finished his Tar Heel career with 319 total tackles and 36.0 tackles for loss, both of which are numbers that are still among some of the best in program history. Simmons was also a menace in coverage, intercepting six passes in his career. In each of his final three seasons on campus, Simmons racked up at least 85 total tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss and earned both All-ACC and All-America honors in both of his final two seasons. As a senior, Simmons was named a consensus All-American, joining his teammates Dré Bly and Greg Ellis as the three to receive that honor in that historic 1997 season.
#42: Robert Quinn
The No. 42 may not be the most decorated, but this is a number that has seen a lot of players that have blossomed late in their careers. Bernard Timmons and Shakeel Rashad both finished their career with big years at linebacker in the jersey, while David Bomar went from being a walk-on to a key member of the 1999 secondary after an injury to starter Quinton Person. Ultimately the decision came down to Bob Mitten, a former guard who was a reason behind the success of Charlie Justice and pass rusher Robert Quinn. We’ll give Quinn the slight edge here because of just how much success he had in his two active seasons with the Tar Heels. As a sophomore, Quinn led the ACC in tackles for loss with 19.0 and was second in the conference in sacks with 11.0 and forced fumbles with six on his way to earning first team All-ACC honors. However, just prior to his junior season, he was deemed ineligible. Quinn finished his career with 86 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 13.0 sacks and eight forced fumbles. You can only wonder what could have been.
#43: John Bunting
Boy, was this a tough one. Bill Maceyko and Chris Ward had strong careers in the jersey, but this debate ultimately comes down to Bob Loomis and John Bunting. Loomis had an amazing season at tight end in 1978, his lone season at the position, but Bunting’s career at linebacker is just too much to ignore for him to not be the choice here. Bunting was a three year starter for the Tar Heels at linebacker from 1969-71, captaining the 1971 squad that took home an ACC Championship. As a senior that season, Bunting earned first team All-ACC honors while leading a defense that allowed just 134.5 rushing yards and 12.7 points per game.
#44: Mike Voight
The No. 44 is one of the most decorated numbers in program history. Brandon Spoon is one of the best linebackers to ever put on a Tar Heel uniform and deserves plenty of recognition for his phenomenal career. However, this battle came down to two of the most decorated running backs in program history. Both Kelvin Bryant and Mike Voight have flawless resumes, but after a lot of back and forth, we’ll give the slightest of edges to Voight here. In his four year career at Carolina, Voight ran 4,061 yards and 42 touchdowns, totals that sit second all-time in program history to this day. He ran for at least 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns in each of his final three seasons and, in his final two seasons on campus, earned first team All-ACC honors, as well as back to back ACC Player of the Year awards. As a senior in 1976, Voight ran for 1,407 yards and 18 touchdowns on his way to earning second team All-American honors and finishing eighth in the Heisman voting.
#45: Eddie Kesler
Quietly there is a good amount of success here. Both Antonio Goss and Jeff Reed had solid careers in the jersey, but put together more successful NFL careers than college ones. The ultimate debate was a good one, but we’ll go with Eddie Kesler by a slim margin over Mark Smith. Kesler ran for 936 yards and four touchdowns in his three seasons with the Tar Heels, but he was known more for being a great blocking fullback that plowed the way for Ken Willard’s success in the mid-60s. Kesler never earned All-ACC honors, but he was the first fullback in program history to win the prestigious Jacobs Blocking Trophy that is awarded to the conference best blocker each season when he took home the award in 1964.
#46: Bill Faircloth
This is a number that has been worn just ten times in program history and for a good reason. Shortly after his freshman season, Sutherland was in an automobile accident that took his life, leading to head coach Carl Snavely doing all he could to successfully get his number retired. While his number is retired, the number was also home to guard Bill Faircloth, who had a successful career while earning All-Southern Conference honors in 1940.
#47: Zach Brown
This is the thinnest number in this edition of the series, but there are still a few productive names who have spent time in this jersey. Both Don Klochak and Fuzzy Lee carved out nice roles in their time donning the number, but there is a clear answer for the best player to wear this number. Former linebacker Zach Brown played all four of his active seasons at Carolina in the jersey, racking up 230 total tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and seven interceptions. His best season on campus came as a senior in 2011, where he finished with 105 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three interceptions on his way to earning first team All-ACC honors.
#48: Kevin Reddick
This is a very interesting number that might not have the star power of some of the other numbers, but has plenty of success. Don Hartig Sr. was the lead blocker for Charlie Justice and all of his success on campus, while Sammy Johnson put together a nice career at running back in the early 70s while wearing the number. Durell Mapp had a very nice career in the jersey at linebacker, but Kevin Reddick is who we’ll go with here. In his four years in the No. 48, Reddick tallied 275 total tackles, 36.0 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, finishing each of his last three seasons with at least 70 total tackles and 6.0 tackles for loss. He earned first team All-ACC honors as a senior in 2012, where he had 85 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
#49: Julius Peppers
This has been a temporary number for most of the players who have worn this number, but it is also home to one of the best college football players of all-time. Both Lee Shaffer and Mitch Wike had really nice careers in the jersey, but they pale in comparison to what was accomplished in the No. 49 by Julius Peppers. In his highly decorated career at Carolina, he racked up 167 total tackles, 53.0 tackles for loss and 30.5 sacks, the latter two of which a second most in program history. Peppers earned first team All-ACC and All-American honors in both 2000 and 2001, earning unanimous All-American honors as a junior in 2001. Peppers also took home the Lombardi Award and Chuck Bednarik Award, while also finishing 10th in the Heisman race in that 2001 season. While that season was a great one, his best season may have come in his sophomore season where he finished with 64 total tackles, 24.0 tackles for loss, a program record for a single season, and 15.0 sacks, the second most in a single season by a Tar Heel. Peppers also holds the program record for sacks in a single game, which he set in a 2001 game against Virginia.
#50: Art Weiner
The last number of this edition of the series has only seen thirteen players wear it, but it has been worn by one of the most prestigious players in program history. Art Weiner was one of the Tar Heels first great pass catchers, as he was the standout receiver on the Charlie Justice era teams from 1946-49. In his four year career, Weiner caught 106 passes for 1,733 yards and 18 touchdowns, while also playing a major role on the defensive side of the football, headlined by a game saving play to help the Tar Heels hold off rival Duke in 1949. In 1949, Weiner led the nation in receiving, catching 52 passes for 762 yards and seven touchdowns on his way to his second straight appearance on the All-America first team. Weiner earned All-Southern Conference first team honors in each of his final three seasons on campus, as well, on his way to the National Football Hall of Fame.