By Sam Smith, UNC '14
Today is one of those days I wished would have been different.
As I handed in my last final exam at UNC, I always imagined walking out of that building and calling the person who would have been most proud. Instead I found solace in Kenan Stadium, section 121, row YY, seats 1 and 2 where I had sat so many times with my dad. I couldn't help but cry thinking about what I would have said to him today, how he would have felt and what that call would have been like. I thought about being born and raised in a childhood of Carolina blue walls, t-shirts, posters and cabinets of cups from Kenan Stadium.
I thought about being raised around the Well and the Bell, learning about Dean Smith and holding my dad's hand as we walked down Franklin St. I thought about as I got older just sitting in the Pit or Polk Place talking with him and how he always said that if I worked hard I could call myself a Tar Heel one day.
My dad, who got into UNC, never had the chance to go and I always felt like it was one the things he regretted most. Some parents want their kids to be athletes or musicians, and some just want their kids to be successful and have opportunities they never had.
But my dad's dream was more specific, he always wanted me to someday be able to say I was an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As I sat there with a face full of tears this afternoon all I could think was "We made it, Dad. Thanks. I love you." Couldn't make that call today, but I'm sure he was listening.
Sam Smith is a graduate of the Class of '14 UNC and the valedictorian of the Scotland High School Class of '10. His father, Kenny, passed away 2 years ago and will be missed greatly at commencement this Sunday.
Sam is one of thousands of Tar Heels who will graduate on Sunday. We want to hear what becoming a Tar Heel, and the role Carolina sports played in that experience, means to you. Whether you're a member of the class of 2014 or any other class, send us your favorite stories and we'll run the best next week. Make sure to include your name and class year.