Dyer Earns Scholarship

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Butch Davis has stressed the importance of his walk-on program since he arrived in Chapel Hill, and for the second season in a row, the head coach has backed up those statements with actions, presenting walk-on junior center Lowell Dyer with a scholarship for the 2008-09 academic year.

The Durham, N.C. product out of Riverside High School has known about the news for a little more than two months.

"They put me on a temporary scholarship for the spring, and then as far as the permanent scholarship, we found out during the team meeting after spring ball was over," Dyer said. "It was the same meeting that we were getting the weight-lifting and team awards, and they [handed out the awards], Coach Davis announced that I was getting a scholarship."

Last August, senior walk-on Kendric Williams was given a scholarship for his final season at North Carolina. The cornerback said at the time that it was the culmination of years of hard work, and Dyer was equally as emphatic about his grant-in-aid.

"It was really exciting to find out, and I'm really happy that it happened," Dyer said. "Both my mom and dad were really excited for me. They know how hard I've worked. I feel like I've worked hard and earned this – it certainly wasn't just given to me. I'm proud to have earned it, and they were happy and proud for me, so I'm really thankful for them."

The large majority of walk-on players across the country serve the role of tackling dummies and scout team opponents in practice, a tough but crucial job for a program's success with the limited number of scholarships (85) available per school. While their teammates may have goals of 1,000-yard rushing seasons or 15-tackle games, walk-ons are typically fighting for the ability to dress out on game day at least once in their career.

Dyer has been an exception to that standard, however, beginning last season as Scott Lenahan's backup at center. And when the senior lineman went down with various injuries throughout the schedule, Dyer stepped in to start six games and play 267 offensive snaps.

So for some observers, it seemed as though it was only a matter of when – not if – the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder would receive a scholarship, but the 2007 Academic All-ACC team member never looked at it that way.

"I wasn't expecting to get the scholarship," said Dyer, who is expected to compete with guard-turned-center Aaron Stahl for playing time this fall. "When [Davis] said that he liked to be able to give scholarships to walk-ons, I thought it could be me, but I didn't expect it coming at that time at all. I figured if they were going to do it that it would be later anyway…

"I tried not to focus on that too much, because I didn't want it to be an issue where if I didn't get one, I would be upset, because that's not what I'm about. But really, my focus was on the team and trying to get myself better for the season and not necessarily trying to earn a scholarship."

Davis' stance on walk-ons has been well-known since his time at Miami, and he asserted his beliefs once again last fall, saying that, "When walk-ons come here, once they are on the football team I could care less whether they're here on a Pell grant, the GI Bill, Uncle Sam, or their Mom and Dad paying the way. Once they get here, the best players will play."

Dyer indicated that mentality is constant and unwavering throughout the entire football program, and that the players know that if they can play, then they will.

"Coach [Sam] Pittman – especially being my position coach – there was never any distinction between walk-on and scholarship guys," Dyer said. "It's more about whether or not you can play, not whether or not you have a scholarship."

The irony in Dyer's situation is that he was denied a $1500 academic scholarship from a local organization in high school because a college coach stepped foot on Riverside's campus to inquire about the offensive lineman. Dyer was never offered an athletic scholarship, but the NCAA labeled the Durham native as a "recruited" athlete and he was unable to take the financial aid.

But Dyer's not one for retribution, especially with big things on the horizon for North Carolina football.

"It was a pain when it happened," Dyer said. "Do I wish that it had not happened back then? Yes, but I try to look forward and I'm just thankful for the way that it worked out. I just couldn't see it working out any better than it has."

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