Kelly Bryant’s decision this week to transfer from Clemson to another University seemed to send shock waves throughout college football. There was so much outrage from a great many football analysts that you would have thought that Bryant did something to offend them personally!!
“How could he let his team down and leave now?” said one prominent analyst. “He’s quitting on his team,” another blurted on national television. Another college football analyst – a former QB – seemed indigent that Bryant would consider such a transfer. This analyst told the nation that he stayed when he was in college even as his coach yanked him back and forth out of the lineup many times but it worked out okay because he became a mid-round draft pick!
So, let’s take a quick look at some the issues here:
- Kelly Bryant was demoted to 2nd team QB. After doing everything asked of him for four years – including waiting patiently for two years behind Deshaun Watson – and then being 16-2 as a starter, Coach Dabo Swinney decided he needed to go with the freshman QB to give Clemson a better chance at winning the national championship. That clearly is a Coach’s decision. No problem with that. But unless you have played QB and have been benched, you really don’t understand. I think Phil Simms, the former All-Pro QB turned announcer, probably had the most refreshing analysis of this when he would talk about the back-up QB being the most popular player in the stadium! QB is like no other position in football, you are the leader, and when you get benched it is a whole lot different than any other position changes in football.
- Kelly Bryant has to think about his future. This was a professional decision by Bryant. Under the new NCAA rules he can transfer immediately and play one final year at another program. So, if this were your son and he was benched with the probability that he wouldn’t play much for the rest of the year and as a result exhaust his eligibility but this new rule allows him to play another year if he leaves now, wouldn’t you encourage him to transfer? I would have!!
- Kelly Bryant Has Game. I think the most ridiculous dissent come from another television analyst – newspaper writer turned television commentator and “now football expert” – saying that Bryant won’t be recruited by any major programs. Are you kidding me? Bryant will have offers from 25+ major college programs. The kid can play. He’s played in the national championship semi-finals. He’s thrown for 3,333 yards and 16 TD’s and rushed for another 665 yards and 11 TD’s.
- Transferring Has Worked for Other QB’s. Kelly Bryant is not the first QB to transfer. No, there have been pretty good one’s over the years who started at a program and left for a myriad of reasons – primarily getting playing time – for another college. Here are a few and let me know if you think they are any good – Cam Newton, Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco, Nick Foles to name just a few currently playing in the NFL.
- The Old Double Standard. When a player leaves a program, he is a quitter. But when a coach leaves, it’s a great move. Remember when Jimbo Fisher announced this past December that he was leaving for Texas A&M and a $75M contract even though FSU still had one regular season game left plus the possibility of a bowl game. I didn’t hear these analysts going bonkers like they did when Kelly Bryant made his decision.
And what about a coach who leaves after say just two years at a program. Did you hear any football analysts call Scott Frost a quitter when he bolted UCF for Nebraska after only two years at UCF! Two years!!! Coach Frost was recruiting players to join the “football family” at UCF, telling prospects parents that he will take care of their son for the four years there, preaching commitment, sacrifice and never quitting and yet he was gone after two years! He made a career move and he it was applauded as the most significant hire in college football. Did I say he also left for a much bigger paycheck?
Did these same analysts criticize Urban Meyer for leaving Bowling Green after coaching there only two years to jump ship to Utah? And then what seemed like a blink of an eye – two quick years in fact – Meyer jumped again to the Florida job. The analysts raved about what a great football coach he was. And I certainly understand these coaching moves as a logical career move. People don’t stay in jobs as long as they had in the past. But there was not one hint of criticism for to Urban Meyer for being a job hopper and leaving all these student-athletes behind! In essence, Meyer transferred twice in four years and did not have to sit out one year!
So, let’s give Kelly Bryant a break and wish him the best of luck. He’s seems to be an outstanding young man who was a great representative of Clemson University. He’ll be a great addition as a student-athlete to a very welcoming university this coming season! He wasn’t selfish, he was doing what he believes was in the best interest of a possible professional career.
Record-setting UNC Quarterback
- UNC 4-Year Starting Quarterback (1976-1979)
- Set 19 season and career UNC passing record
- Two still remain: Most Wins as a Starting QB (24) and Most Consecutive Games with a Touchdown Pass (13)
- Set ACC record for touchdown passes in one season (18)
- Winner of MVP Award for Liberty and Gator Bowls
- 1st player in ACC history to win two MVP awards in Bowl Games
Matt Kupec has been a leader throughout his life.
A three sport star – football, basketball and baseball – in high school Matt earned many honors and awards including leading his HS football squad to an undefeated season and #1 ranking as the top High School team in the entire New York state.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Matt was a record-breaking four-year starting quarterback. He led 3 Tar Heels teams to bowl games and he was the 1st player in ACC History to earn two Bowl Game MVP awards.
About Matt Kupec
College Football Career
Two of Matt Kupec’s records still remain at UNC – most consecutive games in a row with a touchdown pass (13) and co-holder of most wins as a starting UNC quarterback (24).
Matt also was the 1st player in ACC history to be named Most Valuable Player of two separate bowl games, and additionally he led the ACC in a number of passing categories during his senior year including most touchdown passes (18) which at the time set an ACC record. The Tar Heels enjoyed very successful seasons during Matt Kupec’s years at UNC, going 30-15-2 and being invited to play in 3 bowl games during Matt’s career.
Here are some season and individual highlights. Total individual and team records can be found in a chart at the end of the college football career section:
1976 (Freshman Year)
After watching from the sidelines for the first five games, Matt Kupec was inserted into the starting lineup as the quarterback against archrival North Carolina State University. Although the Tar Heels would lose that home game – and Matt would throw an interception on his first passing attempt (rough way to start!), the Tar Heels finished the season at 9 wins and 2 losses and were invited to the Peach Bowl. UNC was one of only two ACC teams invited to bowl games that season. The Heels key offensive player was TB Mike Voight who was named ACC Player of the Year and All-American.
In recognition of his performance, Matt Kupec was named Honorable Mention Football News Freshman All-American team.
UNC would lose to Kentucky, 21-0, in a frigid Fulton County stadium in the 1976 Peach Bowl. The frigid conditions and frozen tundra reminded many of the Dallas Cowboys at Green Back Packers classic NFL Championship Game when Bart Starr sneaked in the game winning touchdown for the Packers. The ground was frozen and it was tough to grip the football.
The highlight of the game for UNC occurred on the 2nd play from scrimmage when Matt audibled into a deep pattern and threw a perfect spiral in the arms of WR Walker Lee for a 50 yard touchdown pass. Unfortunately, offensive guard John Rushing had lined up offside and the touchdown was negated by an offside penalty. UNC would not score again!
1977 (Sophomore Year)
Fueled by the number of returning starters including All-American DT Dee Hardison and with the arrival of a wealth of talented newcomers like the great Lawrence Taylor (yes, NFL Hall of Famer LT!), running back “Famous” Amos Lawrence, and future 1st rounder defensive lineman Donnell Thompson, the Heels were picked by many to compete for the ACC Football Championship.
And disappoint they did not! The Tar Heels finished the regular season at 8-2-1 as ACC Champions and were invited to play in the 1977 Liberty Bowl game vs. the powerhouse Nebraska Cornhuskers from the Big 8 Conference.
Passing was not in play during the 1977 season! UNC had the top-rated defense in the country. Throw in a running game fueled by Famos Amos, and one could see that Coach Bill Dooley had little interest in throwing the football. Coach Dooley was a throwback to old school fundamentals. One of his favorite expressions was, “remember, when you throw the ball three things can happen (completion, incompletion, interception) and 2 of the 3 are bad.” Needless to say, there were games – when as the quarterback – Matt had the best seat in the house because all they did was run! But did they run it well!
Matt Kupec’s statistics for the season were very modest. After taking a beating against a top-ranked Kentucky Wildcat defense on opening day (can you believe Kentucky went 11-1 that season). Matt had solid games against Richmond and Northwestern. But then in the game against Northwestern, late in the game with Matt playing well and the Tar Heels well in the lead, Matt got hit in the leg during an option run and left the game due to injury. The strained knee ligaments forced Matt Kupec to miss the Texas Tech game and really hindered his productivity for most of the year.
As a reward for being the ACC champion, UNC battled the Nebraska Cornhuskers under 1st year coach Tom Osbourne who would go on to a legendary coaching career. The game was played on Monday night and it was again a very cold evening in Memphis for a bowl game.
The Tar Heels came out very scrappy and had the lead until a late Matt fumble gave the Cornhuskers the ball and they converted that turnover into a late game winning touchdown. Matt Kupec played so well that he was named the Most Valuable Player even though the Tar heels wound up losing the game. But clearly the Tar Heels showed they could compete with anyone on the national scene.
1978 (Junior Year)
Coming off an ACC Championship and with 17 starters returning from the 8-3-1 season, expectations were extremely high for the 1978 Tar Heels. Some pundits were even predicting a Top Ten season and perhaps a major bowl game for UNC.
There was one problem, though. Coach Dooley had left immediately after the 1977 season to take the dual job as Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Virginia Tech. Dick Crum from Miami (Ohio) was ushered in too much fanfare and a promise to install a new, wide open offense that would bring touchdowns, great offensive statistics and many wins. “Steer clear, the veer is here,” were the bumper stickers and billboards around Chapel Hill proudly displayed as Coach Crum brought the vaunted new triple option with passing offense into would fill the air of beautiful Kenan Stadium.
Those lofty expectations faded quickly after squeaking out a disappointing home opening win against East Carolina the Tar Heels had consecutive losses to Maryland and Pittsburgh. Three games into the season, the “veer” was dropped and the Tar Heels returned to the old reliable I formation.
The Heels finished at 5-6, a very disappointing season. Matt Kupec had suffered a concussion against Pittsburgh and missed the next game against Miami (OH) and then sat for a couple of games before regaining his starting quarterback job for the season closing games.
The highlight of the season was the finale against Duke. Trailing 15-3 with just over 4 minutes to play, Matt engineered 2 scoring drives that was topped off with Famous Amos Lawrence taking a spring draw running play into the end zone with just seconds remaining on the clock to lift the Heels to a dramatic 16-15 win over arch rival Duke.
1979 Season (Senior Year)
After the very disappointing 1978 season, the Tar Heels had an extremely demanding off season in getting ready for a season that would include opening games against the University of South Carolina (with George Rogers at RB) and the Pittsburgh Panthers (a team that would wind up going 11-1 for the season.
With the transition to Dick Crum more settled, the Heels opened the season with an impressive 28-0 thrashing of the South Carolina Gamecocks. A balanced offense with Matt Kupec at QB and Famous Amos at RB had a very impressive debut. A new addition was the emergence of TE former walk-on Mike Chatham who would catch an ACC record 8 touchdown passes during the year.
Next game was against the very highly ranked University of Pittsburgh Panthers. With 7 defensive starters who would go on to start in the NFL and an offense introducing freshman QB Dan Marino, the Panthers were loaded.
But on the third play of the game, Matt Kupec launched a 43 yard scoring strike to a streaking Phil Farris that sent the Tar Heel faithful into a frenzy and stunned the Panthers. UNC went on to win 17-7 as Matt accounted for both Tar Heel touchdowns.
Two more wins moved the Tar Heels to 4-0 and a #12 ranking in the national pools. Enthusiasm was as high as every in Chapel Hill for the football team.
Sadly, that ended the following week when upstart and underdog Wake Forest pulled off a startling upset of the Heels on the Kenan Stadium turf. The Tar Heels wound up finishing the regular season 7-3-1.
Of note, the Heels were #5th in the ACC at 3-3-1 but recorded out of conference knocked off South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Army. Those wins helped the Tar Heels earn a bowl bid to the prestigious Gator Bowl to face the mighty University of Michigan Wolverines.
What a game it turned out to be!
Before a sellout crowd of more than 70,000 people and playing before 1 million television viewers on a Friday night, the Tar Heels took on and beat the Wolverines from the Big Ten. Matt Kupec and Amos Lawrence shared co-MVP awards as the Tar Heels outlasted Michigan to win this Gator Bowl classic 17-15. The highlight of the game was the game winning 15 play, 97 yard game winning touchdown drive engineered by Matt. Mixing runs and passes, the Tar Heels went the distance against the vaunted Michigan defense to take the lead in the closing minutes of the game.
UNC wound up being #15 nationally, the only ACC team to be ranked.
Pro Football: A Quick Cup of Coffee with the NFL
Following the completion of his career at UNC, Matt Kupec signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League.
Disappointed at not being drafted, Matt was immediately called after the draft ended and had lunch the following day with the Seattle Seahawk representative at Crook’s Corner, a great eating establishment.
Matt Kupec was the most heralded of the four free agent QB’s signed by the Seahawks due to his successful career at a major program that included Bowl Game participation in three separate bowl games. Matt’s roommate at Seattle was a quarterback from a little known college – Milton College – that eventually went out of business. His name was Dave Krieg. He went on to be the Seattle starting QB for years and play in the NFL for nearly 20 seasons.
The Early Years: High School Football
Matt Kupec has always been a leader throughout his life. Born and raised in Syosset, NY on Long Island, he enjoyed a prolific high school career as an outstanding student-athlete. A three sport star – football, basketball and baseball – Matt earned many honors and awards including prep All-American in football where he led his Syosset HS football squad to an undefeated season and #1 ranking as the top High School team in the entire New York state.
With many full scholarship offers to choose from following his successful football career, Matt Kupec chose to accept a full scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because of its high academic standing and strong football program.