Tuesday, September 30, 2008

UNC's Sexton never gave up hope

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina quarterback Cameron Sexton said he’s received “a couple hundred” text messages since he threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to lead the Tar Heels to a 28-24 victory at Miami.

One example: “I sent him a text after the game that said, 'Well, son, you surprised a lot of people today, I'm not one of them,’’’ said Mark Barnes, who coached Sexton at Scotland County (Laurinburg) High.

Sexton didn’t surprise himself, either.

Despite being demoted to back-up last year, and third-string to begin this season, the redshirt junior said he never lost confidence that he’d get another chance to play — and prove that he was better than in 2006, when he went 1-4 as a starter.

He pondered transferring on several occasions, but opted to remain a Tar Heel, he said, because “I love this place. I love my teammates and I really, really love my coaches. … I've got a lot of great friends here and I've thoroughly enjoyed my time here — not always on the field until now, but I've really enjoyed playing here. … I felt like at this point in my career I wanted to stay and fight instead of maybe going somewhere else.”

Sexton will start against No. 24 Connecticut on Saturday. Coach Butch Davis said that Mike Paulus will also play, but that Sexton would get at least 60 percent of the snaps with the first team in practice.

“Sometimes — and we've talked about it as a coaching staff — sometimes you have to be very, very careful about labeling any indiviudal early in their career,’’ Davis said. “If people would've labeled Troy Aikman after the 1-15 season they might not have ever dreamed he might have gone to the Hall of Fame.

“Maybe with Cam being the starting quarterback a couple of years ago, you look at the situation in which he was trying to operate under and now obviously he's grown and matured. He's got a supporting cast that's probably somewhat a little bit better and it's a little healthier environment right now.”

And that’s confident Sexton can lead them to victory, again.

“Just seeing him in the game, all the fun he was having – he was just walking up and down the sideline, [saying] ‘Just keep giving me the ball,’ talking like that,’’ said senior safety Trimane Goddard. “It was fun to see that out of him, after what he went through.”

-- Robbi Pickeral