By Megan Walsh, GoHeels.com
North Carolina kicker Casey Barth wasn't sure what this season would hold.
After a groin injury sidelined Barth to a medical redshirt last season, Barth came back slowly but surely in December amidst a few doubts. Working on a "kick count" like a pitcher, Barth climbed back from the injury and entered the Larry Fedora era at UNC with a new toughness.
"It just taught me to never give up," Barth said. "I didn't know what was going to happen after last season and having to redshirt. With all the hard work and really working together with the guys, they've done a really great job helping me out. Just working as a unit and getting back into it has been amazing."
Though getting back into it may be an understatement. In his final season in a Carolina jersey, Barth now holds UNC records for career field goals, career extra points, consecutive extra points, extra points in a game and career points.
The Wilmington native's achievements are now being recognized nationally too. Barth was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Groza Award, an honor awarded to the nation's best kicker.
"He should win that award hands down," quarterback Bryn Renner said. "Absolutely. What he's done over his career, I don't think many guys have accomplished what he has. He's come up so big for us, even this season and his whole career, making big kicks and really putting the team on his back so to speak.
"He's the leading scorer in Carolina history, and that says it all by itself. He does a great job of being that leader that we can turn to."
Barth's teammates describe him as being a humble, all-business type player on the field. Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said Barth's go-to response to any praise is always, "Man, I've got work to do."
A lot of that comes from Barth's goals of making the NFL after graduation. Even more stems from his close relationship with older brother Connor, a former UNC kicker who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"We're pretty competitive," Barth said. "We talk about everything. Honestly, we don't talk about football that much, but we are really competitive. We're always comparing our stats at the end of the day. But I always have him up here, because he's accomplished so much, so I'm always just trying to catch up to him."
Barth plans to adopt Connor's schedule and work regiment in the offseason to up the odds of his shot at the NFL. Until then, though, he is focused on finishing out and enjoying his final season at UNC. And with so many Carolina records now in place, Barth is only adding to the numbers for future kickers to aspire to.
"If they put the ball on the 50 yard line, I will have faith in Casey making it," Williams said. "If they put the ball on the 1-yard line on the other goal line, I will have faith in Casey making the shot. Casey's a great kicker. I have a tremendous amount of faith in him. When he's up to kick the ball, I almost go sit on the bench because I know it's going to be good."