The following appears in the April 2014 issue of the UNC Football Lettermen's newsletter.
I’m a Tar Heel.
I’m a proud graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I’m also an African-American athlete who earned five letters with the Tar Heel football and track & field teams from 1989-1994.
As a student-athlete at one of the premier institutions in the country, I had the opportunity to fulfill my dreams of obtaining a quality education, while competing in athletics at the highest level. My experience in Chapel Hill not only fostered my personal growth and development, but it set the table for my success in my professional endeavors.
On the playing field, I learned the value of hard work, determination and perseverance.
As a member of a class that produced four straight winning seasons and two bowl game appearances after logging a 1-10 mark as freshmen, those aforementioned traits were critical to turning the football program around. We outworked the competition, refused to accept mediocrity and bounced back from numerous failures to become a respected Top 20 program. Additionally, our collective appreciation for cooperation and teamwork set the stage for the next generation of Tar Heels to take the program to another level.
Looking back at my individual success following college, I know that the core beliefs that I developed as a member of the football team served me well as a player and scout in the NFL for 12 seasons. While some of my pro teammates didn’t fully embrace the grind, I relished the challenge of putting in work because that was the standard established at Carolina. “Tar Heels, We Work” was our off-season motto and it fueled us during the countless hours devoted to film study and on-the-field practice. Those words still rang true many years later as I worked to master my professional craft.
In the classroom, I learned the importance of preparation, organization and critical thought. The challenges of succeeding in a rigorous academic environment required me to take my game to another level. While I didn’t earn Dean’s List distinction or graduate with honors, the fact that I finished with a degree in Speech Communications is one of my biggest personal accomplishments because I worked hard to earn the respect of my peers in the classroom.
More importantly, I benefitted from sitting alongside some of the best and brightest minds in the country. Listening, learning and participating in engaging classroom discussions gave me the kind of perspective and confidence needed to succeed in my post-football career endeavors. Although I didn’t realize how much those conversations and interactions would impact me later in life at the time, I’ve grown to recognize and appreciate my classroom experience at Carolina.
That’s why I want to speak up when I see my beloved university under attack. I’ve shed blood, sweat and tears on the turf and in the classroom to live up to the standard of excellence expected of Tar Heels; I know that I’m not alone in the that fight. Several of my teammates and classmates used their experiences at Carolina to launch remarkable careers as doctors, attorneys, dentists, real estate developers, venture capitalists and investment bankers. In addition, I’ve watched some of my peers enjoy distinguished careers as pro athletes, coaches and athletic administrators.
With our core values and principles shaped by our experiences at Carolina, I refuse to allow others to disregard the hard work of my peers or taint my appreciation for my alma mater. For I know how special it is to be a Tar Heel and there are a legion of current and former student-athletes who feel the same way.
California, April 2014
Tar Heel Lettermen with similar experiences and perspectives are encouraged and invited to share their thoughts just as Bucky Brooks has. They will be displayed on the Lettermen’s website and on Goheels.com as well. Send anything you’d like to share to Lee Pace at firstname.lastname@example.org.