Bond of Strength

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Ever heard the expression, "Can't see the forest for the trees"? North Carolina offensive lineman Travis "Tree Top" Bond gives that phrase a little different meaning than originally intended, but that's the opposing defensive lineman's problem.

The Windsor, N.C. junior could only smile when asked if UNC's official roster measurements of 6-foot-7 and 340 pounds were accurate.

"It might be a little off, but hey, I make it look good," Bond said.

On a practice field full of larger than life football players, Bond is undoubtedly the largest. The irony involved is that prior to high school, Bond excelled at skill positions such as wide receiver, running back and tight end.

"Growing up, I would have never thought I'd be an offensive lineman playing other positions," Bond said. "But it's fun – it's one of the best positions on the field, if anybody were to ask me."

Bond arrived in Chapel Hill in the summer of '09 expecting to work behind veteran Kyle Jolly at left tackle. But with injuries and attrition piling up, Bond was forced into significant action in just the second game of his career at Connecticut. He ultimately played in all 13 games and totaled 243 snaps during his rookie season, including a start against Pittsburgh in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

"[The 2009 season] helped me as a player and as a person," Bond said. "Coming in as a freshman and not knowing much, not knowing how the offense worked. And coming into practice now, I pick up things a lot quicker than I used to in my freshman year, even last year. I'm sharper with how I pick up blitzes and what I need to do on the field."

After appearing in all 13 games in '10 and starting three of those contests, Bond has finally moved into the starting role at right guard.

"I like pressure, so last year helped me out a lot in working even harder to get to that No. 1 spot," Bond said. "But now that I'm here, I want to make it a good solid foundation. I want the guys behind me to work even harder to make me work harder. I feel like being a one is a privilege, so I take it as it is. I just want to do my best at it and make everybody on the team better."

Helping Bond's development is classmate and good friend Brennan Williams working beside him at the right tackle spot. Their relationship began when their numbers were called out of necessity as freshmen and that bond has only strengthened over time.

"We look at the right side as the strong side," Bond said. "We haven't played much in a game together, but throughout the years that we've been here, we've practiced with each other a lot. We've just got a strong connection. We expect a lot out of each other, so when he messes up, I get on him. When I mess up, he gets on me. We just want to keep everything moving along. We don't want to hold our heads down if something goes wrong. We just want to move forward to the next play."

While Bond and Williams anchor the right side of the line, senior Cam Holland holds down the center spot and tackle James Hurst and guard Jonathan Cooper provide freakish athleticism on the left side.

"We come to practice every day and we expect to work hard," Bond said. "I think [offensive line coach Sam] Pittman is doing a great job of pushing us to read stuff a lot quicker than we used to. He just wants everything clean and crisp, so we just come out here every day with a high expectation of one another to push each other to make everybody better."

Both former head coach Butch Davis and current interim head coach Everett Withers have pointed to the offensive line as a team strength over the past month, marking the first time since Bond set foot on campus that his position group is no longer seen as a question mark.

"It's coming along well," Bond replied when asked about the offensive line's progression in training camp. "We're big and strong and fast up front, so it should look real good this year."

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