The Count of Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Chances are you wouldn't recognize LeCount Fantroy strolling down Franklin Street on a random Thursday afternoon. After all, the red-shirt sophomore was an unranked high school prospect and has battled various injuries in his 32 months on campus, but he fully plans to introduce himself this fall.

Fantroy, who hails from Washington, D.C., signed with North Carolina in 2006 before spending the fall semester at Milford Prep Academy in New Berlin, N.Y. One of the few holdovers from former UNC head coach John Bunting's final class, the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder battled ACL and wrist injuries during his first season in college before suffering a broken right hand last August after attempting to punch a ball out of a receiver's hand and instead connecting with a helmet.

But Fantroy returned with a protective brace to play in eight games in '08, primarily on special teams and as a reserve cornerback. He wasn't about to let injuries derail his dreams of playing college football.

"I've faced a lot of adversity, but everybody faces adversity, just in different areas," Fantroy said following Thursday's practice. "But God wouldn't burden me with any challenges I couldn't handle… It's been tough, though. It's been mentally draining. There have been times where I've been pulled here and pulled in different directions, but I just had to buckle up. This is what I want to do. I want to be a Tar Heel and I want to play football, and that's all there is to it."

Junior defensive tackle Marvin Austin sauntered over during Inside Carolina's interview with Fantroy, intent on giving a hometown perspective on his classmate.

"For one, he's a D.C. guy, so he's got that dog in him," said Austin, who also attended Ballou High School in Washington. "You get a boy from D.C. that makes it out of the city; he's got just a certain amount of nastiness to him. I know LeCount's got that to him. I can't wait to see the boy get out there and play – we've been waiting for a long time. He's had a couple of setbacks, but my boy's going to do his thing. I promise you that."

With plenty of fresh faces saturating the secondary this fall, Fantroy has made the most of his opportunity, seizing the backup right cornerback spot behind Kendric Burney while also gunning for the starting nickel back spot along with fellow backup corner Jordan Hemby, who is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.

"This is by far my best period of practice I've had since I've been at Carolina," Fantroy said. "I'm healthy for once in a long time and I'm making plays on the ball and improving on the depth chart... I'm just working hard and trying to capitalize on every opportunity I have to get into the rotation."

Part of those efforts consisted of intense offseason workouts to build size and strength while increasing his foot speed. Check, check and check.

"I worked hard this summer," Fantroy said. "I did a lot of work with Coach [Jeff Connors], our strength and conditioning coach, and his staff. I just had the attitude that I don't want to settle for less. I wanted to become a football player instead of being somebody that was just playing football."

Living in the film room has been another aspect of the sophomore's development, including watching his teammates that are listed higher on the depth chart in Burney and roommate Charles Brown.

"[Burney's] a good corner to watch, because his style of play is the exact opposite of my style of play," Fantroy said. "So I try to take what he does – a lot of energy, a lot of quickness and explosive tackles – and I try to add that to my game and improve what I do."

And while the on-the-field lessons that were delivered courtesy of Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster are no longer available at Navy Fields, Fantroy believes there is reason for optimism with the new crop of Tar Heel receivers.

"The young guys are going to be great – they're true talents," Fantroy said. "I just can't wait to see them blossom, but right now, I like a mixture of the ‘older guys.' Todd Harrelson is a quick dude – he's probably the best receiver off the jam, other than Dwight [Jones]. Dwight is by far the best receiver on the team to me, honestly. And then it's probably Greg Little and Rashad Mason."

Ask Fantroy about his personal goals, and he quickly responds with team aspirations and expectations. One thing is certain about this North Carolina defense – all of its members have complete faith that a breakout season will commence in a little more than three weeks.

"I think the sky's the limit for our defense," Fantroy said. "I think we have a swag that we've worked too hard to not be good. It's like we're going to win every game we play before we hit the field. We won these games back in January after the season was over and we were working hard and everybody just bought into this. Everybody's doing their best just to do what they can and then play their part instead of trying to do everything else. Just do your thing and help this defense be great."

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