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 51-60 in Tar Heel football history.
#51: Pat Crowley
The No. 51 has been worn by some of the top offensive lineman in program history. Both Len Szafaryn and Rick Donalley left major marks along the offensive line in their times in the jersey, but neither is on par with the career that Pat Crowley put together while wearing the number. Crowley, who started every game of his career, is one of only four Tar Heels to land first All-ACC honors three times in their career, doing so in 1987, 1988 and 1989. At the time, only one other offensive lineman in ACC had accomplished that feat. As a senior in 1989, Crowley earned first team All-American honors, something only two Tar Heel offensive linemen have accomplished since.
#52: Joe Craver
There may not be a ton of names that standout here, but there is still some nice success at the top. Both Sedrick Hodge and Quan Sturdivant put together nice careers at linebacker in the jersey, but our pick here will be early 60s offensive lineman Joe Craver. In each of his final two seasons on campus, Craver earned all-conference honors, picking up first team All-ACC honors in 1962, helping pave the way for the extremely successful Ken Willard.
#53: Dwight Hollier
This is a number that has seen a lot of talent roll through over the years, primarily on the defensive side of the football. Malik Carney had a successful career as one of the most recent players to don the number, but ultimately this came down to two of the greatest linebackers in program history. We’ll give Dwight Hollier the slight edge over the extremely underrated Kivuusama Mays, but both have amazing arguments to be the pick here. The leader of the Tar Heel linebacking corps from 1988 to 1991, Hollier finished his Tar Heel career with 502 total tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss and five fumble recoveries. In each of his first three seasons on campus, Hollier had 100 or more total tackles and was on track to finish his senior season with that mark prior to an injury that ended his season after just seven games. Hollier is one of just two players in program history to finish two seasons with more than 150 total tackles, as he did so in both 1989 (159) and 1990 (155). In both of those seasons, he earned All-ACC honors, picking up first team recognition and third team All-American honors in 1990.
#54: David Drechsler
This is another number that has been home to plenty of very successful careers. Both Brett Rudolph and Bruce Carter were one of the best linebackers in each of their respective decades and Hosea Rodgers had some nice success in the early 40s at running back before he headed off to fight in World War II. However, David Drechsler might just be the best offensive lineman in program history, so he is the clear choice here. Drechsler was a four-year starter for the team from 1979-82, moving around the offensive line for most of the first two seasons before settling in at guard for his final two seasons. Once he settled there, the success began immediately. In both of his final two seasons, Drechsler earned first team All-American honors. He is the only offensive lineman and one of just eight players in the program’s history to earn first team honors twice. Drechsler also earned first team All-ACC honors in both of those seasons.
#55: Chris Hanburger
There hasn’t been a ton of overall success here, but the number is home to two of the greatest centers in program history. Jeff Garnica had a huge senior season while anchoring the Tar Heel offensive line back in 1988, but Chris Hanburger is the guy who we’ll go with here. Not only did Hanburger have success helping anchor the line that paved the way for guys like Ken Willard and Eddie Kesler, he was also one of the Tar Heels top defenders for a defense that helped lead the Tar Heels to a Gator Bowl win in 1962. Hanburger received first team All-ACC recognition in both 1962 and 1963 before heading to the NFL for what would be a hall of fame career in Washington.
#56: Greg Warren
This is a number that is very thin on success, but leads to an interesting conversation as to who should be our pick here. The production is so thin here that Andre Smith’s freshman year actually has him in the conversation, but it comes down to Bill Richardson and Greg Warren. Richardson had a solid career at linebacker, earning All-ACC recognition in 1969. As a long snapper, though, it’s impossible to earn all-conference honors and one has to believe that if it were possible, Warren would have earned it at some point during his career. Warren came to Carolina as a walk-on in 2000, but earned a scholarship ahead of his junior season. He started 49 consecutive games for the Tar Heels at long snapper, including snapping for Connor Barth’s game-winning field goal to beat No. 4 Miami. Warren also holds multiple weight room records among specialists to this day, headlined by his 500 lbs. squat record.
#57: Buddy Curry
The overall success here might be the thinnest that we’ve seen so far, but the good news is there is one historic player that carries this number. Buddy Curry doesn’t seem to get as much respect as some of the more recent linebackers in program history, but he deserves it. He was a four-year starter who put together the most productive two year stretch among linebackers in program history, finishing with 314 total tackles in 1978 and 1979, finishing the latter of those two years with 171 total tackles, a number that still stands as the most in a single season in program history. Not only was Curry a tackling machine, he also might be the best coverage linebacker in program history. His twelve career interceptions are easily the most among linebackers and sit tied for fourth overall in Tar Heel history. Curry earned first team All-ACC honors in both 1977 and 1979, but somehow never landed any All-American recognition.
#58: Randall Parsons
Another one of those top heavy numbers, the No. 58 has three productive names that sit atop the list. Carl Carr had some nice success in the jersey at linebacker in the mid 80s, but this ultimately comes down to late 50s center Rip Hawkins and early 90s center Randall Parsons. While Hawkins has more All-ACC appearances, Parsons' amazing transition from defensive tackle to third team All-American in 1992 is too much to ignore. While anchoring that 1992 offensive line, Parsons helped the Tar Heel running game average 221.7 rushing yards per game on the way to a 9-3 season that concluded with a Peach Bowl victory. Parsons earned first team All-ACC recognition for his efforts that season, as well.
#59: Andy Bershak
Only seven Tar Heels have donned this jersey and for good reason. Bershak played both sides of the football, but he was known for his defensive prowess, as he was labeled as a “defensive terror”. He was the leader of a defense from 1935 to 1937 that shut out thirteen opponents in that period of time, earning first team All-Southern Conference honors in those final seasons. Bershak earned second team honors in 1936, before closing his career with consensus first team honors as a senior in 1937.
#60: Brian Blados
We wrap up this part of the series with a number that has been home to some of the best offensive linemen in program history. Both Richy Zarro and Paul Hoolahan had nice careers under Bill Dooley in the number, as did Russell Bodine a few years ago, but the clear choice here is Brian Blados. Blados was a member of the early 80s team that produced some of the greatest running backs in program history, but he really took off as a senior in 1983. While helping both Ethan Horton and Tyrone Anthony reach the 1,000 yard rushing mark, he earned himself first team All-American and All-ACC honors.