by Rick Brewer, Sports Information Director Emeritus
RALEIGH - Kelvin Bryant, whose name is scattered throughout the Carolina record book, became the latest Tar Heel football player to be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame Thursday night.
Bryant was one of 11 sports figures to be chosen for the Hall of Fame this year. It's the largest class in history as the Hall of Fame celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Among the other inductees were former Tar Heel basketball coach Bill Guthridge and two other Carolina graduates- Bob Quincy and Hugh Morton. Quincy was a longtime award-winning sports writer in Charlotte and a former sports information director at Carolina. Morton was a well-known philanthropist in the state and a photographer whose pictures filled sports publications.
But, the headline inductee was Bryant who starred at tailback here from 1979 to 1982. He arrived in Carolina after a heralded high school career in Tarboro, N.C. He set state rushing and scoring records and won state championships in the 100 and 200.
Bryant looks like he could play this weekend. His body is as chiseled as it was in his playing career.
His acceptance speech at the induction dinner was the best of the night. Throwing in just enough jokes, he spent time thanking the people of Tarboro for their support over the years. He said the Hall of Fame selection was a great honor and he hoped it would get his hometown more attention.
But, he also paid tribute to all his coaches and teammates during his career and most importantly, his family. Then in a Hall of Fame first, he thanked his lawyer.
The laughter was great he didn't get a chance to explain his attorney is his wife, Teresa.
Bryant came to Chapel Hill despite the fact Carolina was set at tailback with Amos Lawrence, one of the best players in the country. Bryant quickly established himself in fall practice as someone who would still see plenty of action. But, a separated shoulder limited him to just six games.
He bounced back as a sophomore to gain 1,039 yards while sharing the tailback job with Lawrence.
He then exploded into the national spotlight in 1981 as the fulltime starter. He gained 211 yards on just 19 carries and scored an ACC record six touchdowns against East Carolina in the season opener.
Next came a 136-yard, five-touchdown performance against Miami of Ohio. He followed that with 173 yards and four more touchdowns against Boston College. He still holds the NCAA record for most touchdowns in three consecutive games.
Sports Illustrated sent Doug Looney, its top college football writer, to Chapel Hill the next week to prepare a cover story on Bryant. Herschel Walker, Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen had received most of the pre-season attention among running backs, but Bryant quickly had become the biggest story of the year.
Then came a major setback. After gaining 46 yards on only five carries at Georgia Tech, he twisted a knee on Grant Field's artificial grass. He missed the next four games.
Bryant tried to come back against Clemson in what at the time was called the biggest game in ACC history. It marked the first time that two ACC teams faced each other with both ranked in the Top 10.
But, Bryant was still rounding back into shape and was limited to 31 yards in a 10-8 loss, one of the most bruising defensive struggles in the college season.
He was back near top form in the final two games with 171 yards against Virginia and 247 against Duke.
He finished the year with 1,015 yards and 18 touchdowns although he played in just 22 of Carolina's 44 quarters.
He ran for 1,064 yards in his senior season despite missing another game with a sprained ankle.
Even though his injuries limited him to 33 games in his four years here, Bryant still ranks among Carolina's career leaders in rushing and scoring.
He is fourth in rushing with 3,267 yards on 599 carries. That's an average of 5.5 yards per attempt. He is eighth in scoring with 228 points. Four of the players ahead of him are kickers. Only Leon Johnson, Mike Voight and Charlie Justice have scored more touchdowns.
He and Lawrence share the school record for yards gained in a career against one opponent. Bryant ran for 635 yards in four games against Duke, matching Lawrence's total against Virginia.
Bryant was also a threat in the passing game with 44 catches. This came at a time when the emphasis of the Carolina offense was its powerful running attack.
A three-time All-ACC selection, he was an easy choice for the ACC's Silver Anniversary Team in 2003.
His pro career began with the Philadelphia Stars of the new USFL. The league made a special effort to sign top players like Bryant and Walker in an effort to establish itself as a possible threat to the NFL.
Bryant topped Walker for Player of the Year honors in his rookie season as the Stars won the league championship. Bryant was the MVP of the title game.
He later moved to the NFL and the Washington Redskins. Joe Gibbs, his coach there, once said, "When he's healthy, he's the best I've ever seen coming out of the backfield."
There are plenty of people who say the same thing about his career at Carolina.