The state of North Carolina can undoubtedly claim dominance of basketball greatness at the college level and in producing some of the greatest professional basketball players in the history of the game. North Carolina has also produced the most #1 NBA draft picks in history, as well as the greatest ever #3 pick in the NBA draft (see Jordan, Michael).
However, North Carolina’s success at producing collegiate football powerhouses and dominant professional football players has not been nearly as prolific. While, Appalachian State has had much success over the years, winning three straight Division I-AA championships between 2005-2007 before moving to Football Bowl Subdivision (previously Division I-A) in 2013, no school from North Carolina has ever won a top tier college national championship.
And unlike the numerous #1 NBA draft picks that North Carolina has produced, we only have one prospect picked #1 in the NFL draft – a player who has quietly gone on to have a solid NFL career and proven himself to have been a smart choice at #1 over more hyped players in the 2006 NFL draft.
Mario Williams is from the small town of Richlands (pop. 1,520) near Jacksonville in Onslow County. Coming out of Richlands High School, Mario was ranked as one of the top defensive ends in the country and ended up playing his college ball at NC State from 2003 to 2005. Mario’s legacy at NC State has been cemented through his numerous defensive records including sacks in a season (14.5) and career (25.5) and tackles for a loss in a season (27.5) and career (55.5).
In the lead up to the 2006 NFL draft Mario was projected to be a top 10 pick and his performance at the NFL scouting combine was highly impressive with a 4.7 40 yard dash and 40.5” vertical from someone 6’6” tall and weighing 290 pounds. The Houston Texans had the first pick in 2006 and instead of going with the Heisman winning Reggie Bush from the University of Southern California or the Houston hometown hero Vince Young, they surprised many by taking a chance on Mario Williams.
As it turns out Reggie Bush has had a respectable career so far in the NFL with three 1,000 yard rushing seasons and a Super Bowl ring, but no Pro Bowl, while Vince Young’s last season in the NFL was 2011 after appearing in two Pro Bowls. In comparison, Mario Williams has averaged almost 10 sacks a year and has four Pro Bowls under his belt during his time with both the Houston Texans and the Buffalo Bills.
Beginning next year Mario will begin playing for the Miami Dolphins where he should have plenty of open water to cruise around on his bad ass Wolfpack themed boat!