Former Tar Heel All-America cornerback Dré Bly has won a prestigious award in his home state of Virginia and will be inducted into that state’s Sports Hall of Fame April 29.
Bly, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014, was recruited by Virginia as a receiver and by Virginia Tech as an all-purpose “athlete.” UNC coach Mack Brown thought Bly’s best position was cornerback, and was quickly proven right.
As a redshirt freshman, Bly led the nation with 11 interceptions and became one of only five players in NCAA history to be named an All-American as a freshman. He went on to finish with 20 interceptions and earn two more All-America honors.
“You can find a lot of receivers, but shut-down corners are hard to find,” Brown says today. “There was never a question of where he'd play for us. He had the best hands I’ve ever seen, great instincts and foot quickness and a super break on the ball. He allowed us to keep seven in the box and play man coverage all over the field. He always took out their best wide receiver. He would’ve won the Thorpe Award as a freshman, but at that time freshman weren’t getting awards like that are today.”
Bly was picked in the second round of the 1999 NFL draft by St. Louis. During his four seasons with the Rams, he won a championship in Super Bowl XXXIV. He later played with Detroit, Denver and San Francisco.
Bly grew up just over the Chesapeake line from Portsmouth and said he’s visited the Virginia Hall of Fame.
“It’s a great list of guys that are in there, some of the guys I grew up looking up to, like Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson,” he said. “It’s a great honor.”
Bly lives in Charlotte and is a frequent visitor to Tar Heel practices and games and has been very supportive of Coach Larry Fedora’s program and of the work Fedora and his staff, particularly assistant coach Gunter Brewer, have done recruiting in the Charlotte area.
Still, though, Bly understandably has deep feelings for his home state.
“I’d claim Virginia, all day every day,” Bly said in January upon getting the news of his induction. “Even though I reside in North Carolina, I brag on Virginia–what I accomplished when I was there, and the talent we have.”
For more information on attending the Hall of Fame induction at the Renaissance Portsmouth-Norfolk Waterfront Hotel in Portsmouth, call (757) 393-8031 or visit the organization’s website at www.vshfm.com.