UNC’s understated Bryant to enter N.C. Hall of Fame
Each living honoree will speak at tonight’s North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet. When asked how long his speech will be, former North Carolina running back Kelvin Bryant chuckled.
“Not that long, trust me,” Bryant said. “It’s real short and straight to the point.”
Nicknamed “The Reluctant Superstar” by his wife, Teresa, Bryant has always deflected attention from himself.
In his most famous game as a Tar Heel – he scored six touchdowns against East Carolina in 1982 – Bryant is remembered for handing the ball to wheelchair-bound former teammate Steve Streater, who was paralyzed because of a car accident that he suffered after signing a free-agent contract with the Washington Redskins.
Streater, who was watching from the field, spiked the ball after Bryant’s final touchdown.
“My offensive line opened up some gaping holes so it was a real easy game for me,” Bryant said. “The thing I can remember is just running over and giving Steve Streater the ball. I don’t know what prompted me to do that but I just saw him sitting there. I just felt kind of bad for him.”
Bryant would score five touchdowns in the next game against Miami (Ohio) and four more against Boston College, setting NCAA records for most touchdowns in two and three consecutive games.
The Tarboro native ran for 1,000 yards in three different seasons with UNC despite battling injuries. Still, he said he was surprised when he found out he was being inducted.
“This is an individual award but it took a lot of people’s help,” Bryant said. “It’s not just me.”
After his UNC career, he was the MVP of the USFL as a rookie and won two championships in three seasons before the league folded. He later won the 1988 Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins under Joe Gibbs, who called him “the best I’ve ever seen at coming out of the backfield,” before Bryant retired because of injuries in 1990.
Bryant still watches UNC football games from the sidelines. He was at the spring game last month along with former Tar Heel Amos Lawrence – they both ran for 1,000 years in 1980 – and spoke to the running backs afterward.
He also still attends games at Tarboro High, where he preaches about the importance of hard work “Kids today, they want to stay in the house and play video games,” Bryant said. “I was always out and about, playing some kind of sport – basketball, baseball, football – I was always outside. We didn’t have video games when I was growing up. That’s what did it – hard work.”
The 11 honorees tonight also include UNC basketball coach Bill Guthridge, Carolina Hurricanes great Ron Francis and Rich McGeorge, who had assistant coaching stints at Duke under Red Wilson and Carl Franks and at N.C. Central under Rod Broadway.
Francis, who has scored more points in the NHL than anyone except Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe, said he was proud to be the first individual from the Hurricanes to be inducted. He said the team has provided something that fans of different area colleges can rally around.
“Instead of banging heads against each other they can actually sit in one place and root for us,” said Francis, who now works in Carolina’s front office. “The Hurricanes have found a great home here in Raleigh, and me and my family have as well.”
Besides celebrating his induction, McGeorge said he is also about to celebrate his one-year anniversary as a liver transplant recipient.
“My wife teases me once in a while – she thinks I’ve got a female liver because I’ve been talking too much,” McGeorge said. “I told her that wasn’t true because I don’t have to go to the bathroom every half hour when I’m on the interstate.”