Extra Points: Game-Winning Choices
Release: 01/09/2017

By Lee Pace

             The Rest of the Story, as they say, about that game-winning field goal by Nick Weiler at Florida State this year and the unselfish nature of one Mitch Trubisky.

            Last summer, the Tar Heel players, coaches and equipment staff were nearing the decision on which football to order from Nike as the Tar Heels’ game ball for the 2016 season.

            There were basically two options:

            * The Nike Vapor One ball, noted for the thread stitching along the white stripes at either end of the ball. This is a ball preferred by quarterbacks.

            * The Nike Vapor Elite ball, one preferred by kickers because it tends to soften up and acquire a more rounded shape over time. It’s also the pick of kickers because they feel the stitching on the Vapor One ball adversely affects the flight of a kicked ball.

            The equipment staff generally orders 300 balls to last a season of 12-plus games, and Coach Larry Fedora decreed they must order one model and one model only.    Trubisky, the Tar Heels’ new starting quarterback, and Weiler, the senior place-kicker, staged a friendly campaign over the summer over which ball the Tar Heels would use.

            In the end, Trubisky said he really didn’t care, that he was a team player and that if Weiler felt strongly, he’d go with the Vapor Elite ball.

            So when Weiler lined up to try field goals of 54 yards at Florida State in early October and 52 yards at Miami two weeks later, he knew he was kicking a ball that just might have a little extra zip in it.

            “I made sure to find Mitch and give him a big hug after we beat Florida State,” Weiler says. “His unselfishness helped us win the game.”

            Now, there’s nothing scientific about this and there are no official measurements from Nike about the differing performances of the balls. It’s all merely preference, and since we know how the mind works in athletics, if a kicker thinks a ball might go a little farther, it probably will. Weiler hit those field goals as well as one from 50 yards against Georgia Tech.

            “I wish I had saved the text message from Nick when he heard we’d ordered his ball,” says assistant equipment manager Travis Hipps. “It was a string of smiley faces.”

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