The following excerpt from Lee Pace's Extra Points covers the visit to Chapel Hill over the weekend of the 1963 Gator Bowl team:
Enjoying it all from their block seats in section 131 were 45 members of the 1963 team that tied N.C. State atop the ACC standings, pounded the Wolfpack 31-10 and routed Air Force in the Gator Bowl. They were recognized between the first and second quarters and given a hearty round of applause, and at a golden anniversary dinner Friday night in the Blue Zone, two-time All-ACC running back Ken Willard said, “For one brief, magical moment, we were as good as any team in the country.”
Tackle and co-captain Gene Sigmon wondered how much better that team could have been had integration evolved enough in the South in the early sixties to allow players such as Winston-Salem’s Carl Eller and Shelby’s Bobby Bell, who both played collegiately at Minnesota and later made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to matriculate at Chapel Hill. “National championship, maybe?” he said.
Chris Hanburger, later a stalwart with the Washington Redskins and a 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, joked that his girlfriend wanted to get married in the fall of ’63 and Hanburger told her if the Tar Heels made a bowl game, they would tie the knot and use the bowl trip as a honeymoon. So as Hanburger was lining up to snap the ball to holder Sandy Kinney for kicker Max Chapman’s game-winning field goal at Duke that would propel the Tar Heels to the Gator Bowl, he admits to having sinister thoughts. “I wondered if I should sail the ball over their heads so I wouldn’t have to get married. But seriously, it all turned out great,” he said, his wife of 50 years, Evelyn, standing nearby.
Chapman, who would later earn a mint on Wall Street at Kidder, Peabody & Co., and has generously returned large sums to the campus in Chapel Hill, displayed a collegiate acumen for business by taking Hanburger to Durham in the middle of the night and fishing golf balls out of a lake at the Duke Golf Course and returning to sell them at a Franklin Street five-and-dime store. He also talked of spending Gator Bowl week at the opulent Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine—co-owned by none other than Carolina’s own William R. Kenan Jr.—and how their opponents from Air Force were relegated to staying on a military base to cut travel expenses.
“I’ve always thought that’s why we won the game so easily,” Chapman said of the 35-0 win over the Falcons. “We were rested and had a good week, and all those guys wanted to do was go home.”
Frank Gallagher, a tackle who would play eight years in the NFL, was reminded before the game that the upper deck in Kenan Stadium was added just before that 1963 season and that the Tar Heels pummeled the Wolfpack in the dedication game in mid-October.
“It was a beautiful place to play then and it still is today,” Gallagher said. “I can still see the ground keepers on their hands and knees, clippers in hand, cutting out the poa annua on the field.”
Good memories indeed, made all the sweeter against the backdrop of a landslide win to usher in the homestretch of the season.