Fans Expecting Breakout '09 Season

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Not even thunderstorms and rain could damper the enthusiasm surrounding North Carolina's 2009 season. Thousands of fans braved the elements to participate in UNC's "Meet the Heels" event on Saturday night, as the season opener against The Citadel is only two weeks away.

With the skies threatening, Woody Durham got the festivities rolling about 10 minutes prior to its originally scheduled 6 p.m. start time. The long-time UNC announcer sped through the player introductions, highlighting just the seniors within the specific position groups as opposed to his normal task of calling out each player's name.

The hastened approach worked, as the large turnout of kids and adults seeking autographs received a solid 30 minutes of dry signing time before the rain drops began to fall around 6:30 pm.

But before the long lines formed behind the numerous tables dedicated to each position group, head coach Butch Davis took the field to address the fans in attendance.

"On behalf of the team and our coaching staff, we want to let everyone know what a major difference that you made in the experience at Kenan Stadium on Saturdays," Davis said. "It's an unbelievable experience. I want to take you back to last year – the role that our fans played in the Georgia Tech, Boston College and the Notre Dame games was unbelievable.

"We are very grateful to all of you for what you do. I want to encourage everyone to be a part of the experience. Show up the Old Well Walk. Show up and be a part of Tar Heel Town, and more important than anything else, show up Sept. 5 here in Kenan Stadium to start the 2009 season. Thank you for being here tonight. Go Tar Heels!"

As usual, the Carolina Kids' Club set up a variety of inflatable games and other activities in the east end zone, with concession stands open for business. The parents and children that weren't in line for the monster slide, bounce house or football-toss contraption carved out their own areas to throw balls on the Kenan Stadium field.

Amongst the crowd was David Harlan of Durham, N.C., who made the short drive over to Chapel Hill for the third consecutive "Meet the Heels" event.

"There's always a pretty good turnout," Harlan said. "My kids love being able to talk to the players and running around on the field, so it makes for a fun Saturday evening."

Following an 8-5 2008 campaign that ended with a Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Tar Heel faithful want a bigger taste of the success that had previously eluded them for so many years in Chapel Hill. There were few, if any, fans at Kenan Stadium on Saturday that needed the recently released AP national football poll to tell them that North Carolina was a legitimate top-25 program heading into the '09 season.

"Everybody's making a big deal about us losing all of those wide receivers, but Butch Davis has proven that he's one of the best recruiters out there," Harlan said. "With the amount of talent the rest of the team has, I really think a 10-win season is pretty realistic."

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