Former Tar Heel linebacker, captain and head coach John Bunting has been named to join the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame. Bunting will be inducted during the hall’s annual dinner and ceremony on Sunday, May 1 at the Burney Center on the campus of UNC-Wilmington.
A number of Bunting’s teammates from his days playing for the Tar Heels from 1969-71 and Carolina players on his teams from 2001-06 are planning to attend the ceremony and to participate in a fund-raising golf tournament on Saturday, April 30, at Cape Fear National Golf Club.
Bunting has lived in Hampstead since leaving the Carolina job after the 2006 season and has been active with former Tar Heel Coach Bill Dooley in the evolution of the Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame. It was created in 2005 under the guiding hand of Dooley, and the first inductees were made in 2006. Since then, four or five individuals have been tapped per year.
“John has meant so much to this city and our Hall of Fame,” says Joe Robinson, a Tar Heel Letterman in the early 1960s and Wilmington resident since the early 1990s. “He’s a wonderful guy and has a huge heart. He loves the game and still loves to coach. He’s done wonders with NFL prospects like Luke Kuechly.
“He’s elevated this club so much, opening doors for us with so many people in the world of sports. I’m excited for John and I can’t wait to see a lot of Tar Heels in town.”
Other inductees have included Roman Gabriel, Sonny Jurgensen, Terry Holland, Alge Crumpler and Dooley himself. Joining Bunting this year will be basketball player Gwen Austin, legendary football and basketball official Larry Honeycutt, and three-sport standout from New Hanover High, Charlie Niven. Carolina grad and former radio color commentator Mick Mixon will be the master of ceremonies.
Among Bunting’s highlights as a Tar Heel was being co-captain along with QB Paul Miller of the Tar Heels’ ACC championship team in his senior year of 1971. The Tar Heels were 9-2 and earned a bid to the Gator Bowl, where they dropped a 7-3 decision to Georgia.
Bunting went on to a lengthy and distinguished career in the NFL and was a lynchpin of the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense during the team’s Super Bowl run of 1980. He won a Super Bowl ring as an assistant coach on the St. Louis Rams team that won the title game after its outstanding 1999 season.
Another highlight was his first victory as the Tar Heels’ head coach—that 41-9 pounding of Florida State in the home opener in 2001, Bunting’s inaugural year as head coach. Tar Heels had a murderous opening road schedule, losing at Oklahoma, Texas and Maryland, and were slated to face SMU in the home opener. The 9/11 terrorist attack led to postponement of that game, so the week later, the Tar Heels unleashed a barrage of talent the likes of Julius Peppers and Ronald Curry on the Seminoles.
Bunting has graciously donated the game ball from that day for a silent auction in conjunction with his Hall of Fame induction. To bid on the football, follow this link to Ebay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/322038971053.
The reception and silent auction will begin at 5 p.m. May 1 followed by the dinner and induction ceremony at 6:30. For more information on the dinner and golf tournament, follow this link: http://gwshof.com/. As of March 17, 28 teams had been filled in the golf tournament field of 30.