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September 23, 2011
Tar Heel Brotherhood
Often this season when North Carolina's offense is on the field, lining up side by side are are No. 68 and No. 89.
Those are the jersey worn by brothers James Hurst and Nelson Hurst.
James, of course, is UNC's sophomore all-star candidate at left offensive tackle. Nelson is a junior who has taken over as the starting tight end after transferring to North Carolina from Mississippi State prior to the 2009 season.
The Hursts find themselves in a unique situation. There have been plenty of brothers who have played for the Tar Heels through the years, but only a rare few have actually been on the same team.
"It's pretty awesome,'' James Hurst said last week. "Not many people get to experience that, and I think we realize that. We have a great time out there playing football. That's what we're here for. It's a game and everyone has a great time doing it. But when you get to play next to your best friend and your brother, it makes it that much better.''
The brief conversation with James Hurst about playing on the same team with his brother fueled my curiosity to find out who were the last set of siblings to suit up for the Tar Heels at the same time.
Kickers Casey Barth and Connor Barth came close. But Connor played his last season at UNC in 2007, just one season before Casey came aboard as a walk on in 2008.
As best my research skills can tell, the last pair of brothers to play for the Tar Heels at the same time were twins Barry and Larry James, a pair of colorful defensive backs who worked under Coach Dick Crum between 1980 and 1984.
The James brothers were gifted athletes from Middletown, Ohio. Both stood about 5-foot-10 and weighed in around 180 pounds. But they were fast and possessed uncanny leaping ability, which put them in line for playing time very early in their careers. Larry James would letter four seasons for the Tar Heels and Barry James three.
The James brothers were also notorious for their intensity, which was often displayed on the basketball courts at Woollen gym. A conversation I overheard at Ehringhaus dorm one afternoon between Tar Heel greats, receiver Earl Winfield and tailback Ethan Horton, sums up the fiery James brothers.
Winfield was wearing a butterfly band aid to cover a small cut above his right eye.
Horton asked if the injury occurred while playing pickup basketball to which Winfield responded with a yes. "Which one got you?'' Horton asked with a knowing smile. "Larry, I think,'' Winfield responded.
It was almost like a badge of honor among UNC players at the time to have been wounded by the James brothers.
But I digress.
While few have actually played together at North Carolina, there have been numerous pairs of brothers who have starred for the Tar Heels through the years.
Some of the most recent examples include the Barths, quarterbacks Chris and Matt Kupec, offensive lineman Rick and Kevin Donnalley, and defensive back Steve Streater and his wide receive brother, Eric.
The Barths hail from Wilmington and their names can be found throughout the UNC record book. Connor, who is now with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is the school's career field goal leader with 54. But Casey needs just three more field goals this season to tie his brother's mark and four to break it.
For all but one season between 1974 and 1979, the Tar Heels starting quarterback was a Kupec. Chris came South first from Syosett, N.Y., and led UNC in passing with 1,474 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior in 1974.
Matt arrived a year later and put together one of the best four-year careers by a quarterback in school history. He finished as UNC's all-time leader in pass completions, attempts, yardage and touchdowns.
Matt Kupec is now vice chancellor for university advance at UNC.
Rick and Kevin Donnalley were All-Americans 10 years apart for the Tar Heels. Rick was named the center on the All-American teams selected by The Associated Press and Football News in 1980, while Kevin was an offensive tackle on the 1990 squad picked by College and Pro Football Newsweekly.
The Donnalley brothers, who were from Raleigh, both went on to solid careers in the NFL. Rick played for the Steelers, Redskins and Chiefs from 1981 to 1987, and Kevin toiled for the old Houston Oilers/Nashville Titans, the Dolphins and the Panthers between 1991 to 2003.
Last but certainly not least, the Streater brothers from the small Western North Carolina town of Sylva left quite a mark on the Tar Heel program.
Steve Streater was one of most dynamic and beloved players in school history as a defensive back and punter from 1976-80. On one of the school's best teams ever in 1980, Streater led UNC in interception with five and in punting with a 43.4 average. He became the only player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to earn all-league honors at two positions in the same year while helping the Tar Heels to the conference championship.
Steve's life took a tragic turn after his senior year when returning from a tryout with the Washington Redskins he was involved in an accident and was paralyzed.
He carried on valiantly for many years, despite his deteriorating condition before finally passing away in June 2009. Streater remains an inspirational figure for many around the UNC program.
Eric Streater made a name for himself at UNC as a quality receiver. He led the Tar Heels in receiving as a senior in 1986 with 37 catches for 601 yards and four touchdowns.
They are all part of a distinguished group of North Carolina players, or shall we say "brotherhood.''