Rome in Focus

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With North Carolina trailing N.C. State 24-10 last November, fullback Bobby Rome took a handoff from T.J. Yates, slid to his right and threw a 50-yard bomb to an open Brandon Tate to cut the deficit in half. For Rome, that play just highlighted one of the reasons that he loves his position.

"I wanted to make sure that I got the handoff – that was the first thing because I haven't taken many of those," said Rome, who carried the ball just twice for three yards in ‘07. "Once I got the handoff, I knew the throw would be natural, and then the most important thing was just hitting [Tate] in stride… It was exciting, because I promised myself that I was going to throw a touchdown pass in my college career no matter what position I ended up playing, and I accomplished that."

The former high school standout quarterback surfaced last preseason as the depth chart at fullback – as in, he was the only player on the UNC roster slotted for that position. Butch Davis' version of the fullback has become an enigma for the fans and media following the program, and Rome was hesitant in providing too much information about the position's details.

"That's for the defense to figure out," Rome said, smiling.

But the Norfolk, Va. product finally relented and shared his version of the fullback definition.

"It's a hybrid – that's the best thing I can say," Rome said. "It's a hybrid between a tight end and a running back. Coach Davis and [offensive coordinator John] Shoop just love putting athletes on the field, and that's a position we can put an athlete at. At the H-back position, you've got to be able to block, you've got to be able to catch and you've got to be able to run, and if you can do all three of those things – and throw on occasion, which is a bonus – then you're going to play."

The red-shirt junior admitted following Wednesday morning's practice that he had second thoughts early in his career about not being able to play quarterback, but that Davis and Shoop sat him down and went into detail about the diverse nature of that position. That meeting helped to erase any lingering doubts about playing running back for Rome.

In addition to his touchdown pass to Tate, the junior caught 16 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown.

The new blood at tailback also has Rome thinking about big numbers for the offense this fall. With Johnny White and Richie Rich moving to cornerback in the offseason, as well as Anthony Elzy sliding over to backup Rome at fullback, Greg Little and Ryan Houston were the lone active tailbacks left on the 2007 roster.

But with the additions of Shaun Draughn, Devon Ramsay and Jamal Womble to the mix this offseason, the talent level in the backfield has received a significant boost.

"That's a luxury that we kind of had last year, but we didn't have the type of playmakers that we have back there now," said Rome, who added that he hopes to block for a 1,000-yard back this season. "These guys are more big-hit playmakers."

Rome worked to get his nickname "Big Boy" out into the public forum last fall, but unfortunately, that moniker no longer seems appropriate. He has since dropped 25-30 pounds from his frame, and now checks in 5-foot-11 and 239 pounds with a 4.6 40-yard dash.

His goals for the season fall in line with his teammates with respect to winning the ACC Championship and competing for the National Championship. While those lofty aspirations may seem a little out of reach in just the second year of the Butch Davis era, Rome is quick to point out that this North Carolina program is quickly heading toward better days.

"This program is shooting up so fast," Rome said. "It's amazing that I'm a part of it. I always wanted to be a part of something like this. I wanted to help turn the Carolina program around when I committed to [former head coach John] Bunting was here, so I'm glad that I'm here for it."

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