The All-Time North Carolina NFL Team

Lawrence Taylor, Julius Peppers and more

Arguably the greatest pass rusher in NFL history came out of the University of North Carolina. But Lawrence Taylor was not a one-man parade.

Taylor, of course, was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a member of the NFL’s 100 anniversary team. He became the definition of “weak-side pass rusher” with his 132 ½ career sacks. 

One of only two defensive players in NFL history to win league MVP honors (1986), Taylor is one of only 12 players ever to collect 20 sacks in a single season. He went to 10 Pro Bowls, helped the New York Giants win two Super Bowls and was a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

But Taylor isn’t even the highest Tar Heel on the NFL’s all-time sack list. That honor belongs to Julius Peppers, who retired after playing 17 NFL seasons in 2018. Peppers, the second overall pick of the 2002 draft, collected 159 ½ sacks to rank fifth all-time. He went to nine Pro Bowls and was voted to the NFL’s all-decade team for the 2000s.

There are 42 members of the NFL’s 100-career sack club and there are two more Tar Heels in that fraternity, William Fuller and Robert Quinn.

Fuller collected 100 ½ sacks in his 13 seasons – and that doesn’t include the 10 ½ sacks he accumulated in his two championship seasons with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the USFL. Quinn has 101 sacks entering his 12th season in 2022.

Fuller’s early commitment to the USFL in 1984 was the reason he was not a first-round NFL draft pick like Taylor and Peppers. But there have been five edge rushers from North Carolina drafted in the first round since Taylor – Marcus Jones (1996), Greg Ellis (1998), Ebenezer Ekuban (1999), Peppers and Quinn (2011). Ellis and Quinn have both been to Pro Bowls. Ellis collected 84 sacks before retiring after 12 seasons.

So the pass rush would clearly be the strength of North Carolina’s all-time NFL team, which would include a bookend set of Hall of Fame outside linebackers. 

Here is the all-time North Carolina NFL team:

*-QB—Mitch Trubisky, 2nd overall pick of 2017 NFL draft.

HB—Natrone Means, Pro Bowl, 8 seasons, 5,125 rushing yards, 45 TDs.

FB—William Henderson, Pro Bowl, 12 seasons, 14 rushing & 5 receiving TDs.

WR—Hakeem Nicks, 7 seasons, 356 catches, 31 TDs.

WR—Ron Curry, 7 seasons, 193 catches, 13 TDs.

TE—Alge Crumpler, 4 Pro Bowls, 373 catches, 39 TDs.

OT—Harris Barton, 2 Pro Bowls, 10 seasons, 134 starts.

OT—Brian Blados, 9 seasons, 63 starts.

G—Ken Huff, 11 seasons, 104 starts.

G—Ron Wooten, 7 seasons, 69 starts.

C—Jeff Saturday, 6 Pro Bowls, 202 career starts.

DE—Julius Peppers, 9 Pro Bowls, 17 seasons, 159 ½ sacks.

*-DE—Robert Quinn, 3 Pro Bowls, 11 seasons, 101 sacks.

DT—Vonnie Holliday, 15 seasons, 147 starts, 62 ½ sacks.

NT—Tim Goad, 9 seasons, 123 starts, 14 ½ sacks.

OLB—Lawrence Taylor, Hall of Fame.

MLB—Rip Hawkins, Pro Bowl, First MLB in Vikings history

OLB—Chris Hanburger, Hall of Fame.

CB—Dre Bly, 2 Pro Bowls, 11 seasons, 43 interceptions, 7 TDs.

CB—Thomas Smith, 9 seasons, 111 starts, 9 interceptions.

S—Da’Norris Searcy, 8 seasons, 12 takeaways.

S—Gerald Sensabaugh, 8 seasons, 84 starts, 14 interceptions.

K—Jeff Reed, Steelers’ No. 2 all-time scorer.

P—Tommy Barnhardt, 14 seasons, 890 punts, 42.1-yard average.

KR—Brandon Tate, 10 seasons, 450 career punt & KO returns.

ST—Bracy Walker, 12 seasons, ST ace for Chiefs, Dolphins, Lions.

*-Still active

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