February has been extremely quiet around Tar Heel football with the dead period in place as the team prepares for spring practice. In the past few days, though, there has been some news rolling in off the field around the program that you may have missed. Here are the latest storylines from the past few weeks that you need to know.
Former Butch Davis-Era Linebacker Passes Away
Last Friday, the news came out that former linebacker Ebele Okakpu has unfortunately passed away on February 11th. In a description for the GoFundMe set up by Ebele’s sister, Gabriella, she said that his passing was sudden, but his other sister, Elizabeth, said he was diagnosed with Kidney disease and did suffer renal failure. According to Elizabeth, he was on the kidney transplant list at the time of his passing. In his four seasons with the Tar Heels, Okakpu registered 26 total tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one pass deflection. The family will be holding a visitation for him at Roswell Funeral Home in Roswell, GA on Monday from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Ebelechukwu Whitney Okakpu was 32 years old.
Noah Taylor Selected in USFL College Draft
Last Tuesday night, the USFL hosted their first-ever college player draft with 80 players selected over ten rounds. Amongst those drafted was linebacker Noah Taylor, who spent this past season with the Tar Heels as a graduate transfer after four years with Virginia. Taylor, who has an invite to next week’s NFL Scouting Combine, was selected with the fifth pick of the 2nd round (12th overall) by the New Orleans Breakers, becoming the first linebacker taken off the board this year. He heads into the Combine absent from most big boards, meaning he will likely be a part of the Breakers this upcoming USFL season, which starts in mid-April. This may actually present Taylor with his best chance to reach the NFL.
Early Enrollees Get New Numbers
All nineteen of the team’s newcomers that will be a part of spring practice received their numbers for the upcoming season last Monday. One of the notable things from the release was that Georgia State safety transfer Artavious Lane will not be a part of the team in the spring after he committed to the team following the opening of the spring semester in Chapel Hill. The hope was that he had already agreed to enroll prior to the announcement of his commitment, which came just a few days after the semester started back in January. Five of the team’s nine transfers will wear single-digit numbers, while all but one of the true freshmen will wear double-digit numbers.
Designations for Home Games Set
Last Tuesday, the program released their designations for home games this upcoming season. Things will kick off on October 7th when the team will host Family Football Experience as they face the Syracuse Orange. Later in the month for the October 21st game against Virginia, the team will host Rams Club Day/Cancer Awareness Game. Military Appreciation will take place November 4th this year in the game against Campbell and will host Senior Day/Homecoming/Monogram Day the next week against Duke. This will be the first time since 2013 that the team will host the Blue Devils on Senior Day.
Drake Maye Travels to Gainesville to Receive Award
On Tuesday, standout freshman quarterback Drake Maye was in Gainesville to receive one of the many awards that won earlier this offseason. He was officially gifted the Football Writer Association of America’s First-Year Player of the Year after being revealed as the latest recipient of the award back on January 12th. Maye was 342-517 (66.2%) for 4,321 yards and 38 TDs and ran for 698 yards and seven TDs in what was the most productive season for a quarterback in program history.
Elijah Green Receives AD Scholar Athlete of the Year Award for Football
Saturday, at halftime of the men’s basketball team’s home game against Virginia, Green received the honor of being the scholar athlete of the year for the football team in 2022. He was also one of nine Tar Heels to be named to the All-ACC Academic team this season, joining teammates Noah Burnette, Omarion Hampton, Will Hardy, Christopher Holliday, Gibson Macrae, Drake Maye, Justin Olson and Spencer Tripplet. Green finished the 2022 season with 558 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns on 131 carries and 107 yards receiving and one receiving touchdown on 17 receptions.