North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner had a successful sophomore and junior campaign leading the Tar Heels, but found himself in the unfortunate position of having his senior season ruined by poor play and a season ending injury. Now, Renner is in the position of being an underdog and one he seems to both recognize and embrace as he heads to the NFL Draft.
Among the topics he discusses include his game, his successes and challenges both on the field and through injury, why he believes he will be successful, and what he can bring to an NFL team. Also, he gives the perspective of what it was like to be in the midst of the Tar Heel football program through suspensions and sanctions of teammates around him, where the program goes from here and what it will take for them to get to the next level.
Peter Smith: Better shape right now? Your quarterback game or your golf game?
Bryn Renner: I’d probably say my quarterback game. My golf game’s been a little rusty. I played twice this week, just because it’s the first time I’ve had some off time, so I’m a little rusty. I’ve gotta get my chipping; my chipping is my fault. I can’t chip at all.
PS: Are you excited for The Masters Tournament?
BR: Oh, I can’t wait. I can’t wait for The Masters. Me and my buddies do a little golf pool where you pick four golfers and you kinda see who comes out with the best average score for the weekend. So, we’re itching at the bit to do that.
PS: Do you have a guy you follow?
BR: I jump around. I like kinda the new age golfer. Ricky Fowler, Hunter Mahan, those guys, you know, Bubba Watson. Those guys who are kinda under the radar guys that kinda just climb up, that have been around the top 10, but I’m really a fan of Jordan Spieth. One of my buddies grew up with him and I got a chance to meet him and pick his brain a little bit, so he seemed like a knowledgeable kid; kinda up and coming guy, real young. He plays every week, which I like, because he’s such a competitor. Some of those guys take weeks off. He’s kinda my favorite new age guy I would say.
PS: Is North Carolina cursed?
BR: I don’t know. We’ve had some bad luck over the last 7 years I think, of just getting in the media for the wrong reasons, you know, football and basketball wise. I think it’s just a rough time around here. I think everybody is trying to transition to different things, but we’ve hit some rough patches for the last 7 years I’d say.
PS: I have to think part of the reason you went there was because at the time, UNC looked like it was ready to establish itself as a football power, not just in the ACC but nationally. And even this year, beyond the off field stuff, James Hurstgoes down almost immediately and then you have your shoulder injury. It just seems as though UNC is never as good as it clearly should have been.
BR: Yea and I agree with that. When I came in, I got recruited by Butch Davis and they were 7-5 two years in a row before I got on campus. We just kept hitting that 7-6 mark, 7-5 and getting to mediocre bowl games and then we hit 8-4 my junior season with a ton of talent, three first round guys on our team and bringing a lot of guys back that came for their senior year including myself and James and Russell Bodine and those guys. You just think we can, you think 8-4, win an ACC Title, still being sanctioned and not being able to go our junior year and to come back and to start off 1-5 like we did, it was just a struggle.
And it seems like, you know, every time we turn around, something else that’s kind of in our way, but I think that also builds our character. Our whole senior sticking it out through everything we went through, so I think that helps as that side, but it does seem like we are cursed and everything seems to not fall in place for us.
PS: Is there a rift between the guys who were doing it the right way and those that didn’t?
BR: You know, I think there was at one point. I think there was a point in my career here where it was, you know, we need to get these guys and sit them down, but it was really tough to kind of differentiate that, because they were such good players and we needed them, you know, at that time. I think that kind of put a damper on guys saying things and leadership roles were not in place before I became the starter and stuff like that happened. I think there was a rift at some point because it was so frustrating, because the guys who were doing the right things were getting punished years later for something they didn’t even do and the guys did the acts were in the NFL playing and making money.
So, it was kind of a different scenario, you know, my junior year to win the ACC Title and have one of the best years in school history and still have to watch the ACC Title game because of guys who made the wrong decisions that weren’t even in school anymore. There was just a counterbalance that we needed to have at that time.
PS: Speaking of your junior year, you finished the season with arguably two of the best games of your career, going out and beating Virginia and then having that shootout with Maryland. 8 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and hoping to be able to carry that momentum into your senior year.
BR: Yea, you know, it was really tough my junior year, finishing up so strong and everything fell in place. We were really rolling, winning 6 out of the last 8. We felt confident as a team and those last two wins really propelled us into the offseason.
Losing a running back like Giovani Bernard hurt us a little bit going into my senior year and then starting off rough, you know. We lost a lot on defense, the defensive line. It just didn’t come together for the first couple games. We opened up with South Carolina and didn’t have a good showing and really, just kind of struggled from there. Obviously, I got hurt week 7, so it was a tough year, but you know, bouncing back healthy like I did and having a good day at the combine and a good pro day helps propel me into the next chapter of my football career.
PS: Does the combine invite come with a sense of redemption almost?
BR: Yea, absolutely. You know, I think as a competitor and an athlete, you know injuries are going to happen, they’re gonna come up and this is my second shoulder injury in the last five years of my career dating back to high school. I had the same injury my senior year of high school and then I had ankle surgery my sophomore season after the first year I started.
I’ve dealt with injuries before and kind of know how to bounce back, but I definitely think it’s some sort of redemption for me just as a competitor you always want to rebound quicker and prove people wrong, especially when you get hurt because there’s nothing you can really do but rehab and make it stronger. So getting that combine invite was a relief and I wanted to prove people wrong. I could still play this game at a high level ever since my senior year, that’s kind of been my motive.
PS: Can you give people a perspective on being a throwing quarterback at the combine? Some view it as a negative, but in my view, it seems like the best place to be in because you are constantly getting to show what you can do and even though they aren’t your receivers, you can start to build a little bit of a rhythm as the process goes along.
BR: Absolutely. I thought it was a huge advantage because not only do you get to be around them for seven days and be around coaches and get the most opportunities to meet with everybody and kind of state your brand and state your case as to why you think you can play in this league and play on their team. I think that was huge for me, but also on the field, getting to throw five hundred to six hundred balls in front of scouts and do it on a day to day basis is kind of a bigger version of a job interview.
You know, if you go out on Sunday and throw well as a quarterback, well, you’re gonna have to show up on Monday and go to practice again, so I viewed it as a week of minicamp for me. How can I show them I’m ready to go every day? Ready, mentally, ready physically, throwing the same way day in and day out, showing that consistency, because in the NFL, it’s all about consistency and what you do the next day. If you have a good day, you want to come back and have a better day. So, I kinda wanted to show that and it was more confidence for me to be able to throw for an extended period of time, so they could see me.
PS: You, Jeff Matthews from Cornell and Dustin Vaughn from West Texas A&M were the throwing quarterbacks. You couldn’t have three guys from more different collegiate paths.
BR: Yea, we were talking about that. We were all giving our, you know, how college went for us kind of spiel and it was very interesting. We all came from different places and different backgrounds, so it was fun to be around those guys for that week of time.
PS: You mentioned you’ve had this shoulder injury before, so when this one happened, did you know right away?
BR: Yea, you know, it was my senior year. I did the same thing. I tore my labrum and at the time, I didn’t really know what took place the first time, but then the second time against N.C. State when I fell, I knew I was out. It’s one of the most painful things, a dislocated joint, especially the shoulder. You can’t move your shoulder. And I knew it was out, but at the time I thought, you know, I can play, I can play.
And until you get MRI’s and x-rays, that’s your number one goal. I did play my senior year with it in high school, but this one was a lot more intense and definitely hurt me a lot with the news that your senior year’s over. Your career being a college athlete is over. I was on the precipice of a lot of records and a lot of things like that and it hurt and I didn’t know how to handle it. That’s when the light switch kicked on and I just gotta bounce back ever better and prove to the people that I can still play this game. I definitely knew I was out when it happened. I just didn’t know the severity of it.
PS: After you got the news about the injury, how did you role change as a player for the last 5 games of the season?
BR: You become a coach then. That’s when you’re a fifth year senior, you’ve been around the program, you’re gonna be an alumni of the university and you want to see your team and everybody finish strong. At the time I got hurt, we won two in a row, we had three wins and we wanted to go to a bowl game. That was the ultimate goal from starting 1-5.
Growing up, my dad was a coach, so I think the biggest thing for me was to turn coach. I wanted to help the receivers as much as possible. Being in the building all the time, doing rehab, it allows you to be around everybody still and go to practice and kinda put your coaching hat on as much as possible and help the other quarterback in Marquise Williams, who did a heckuva job coming in and leading us to a bowl game. I think for me that was a special moment; just turn coach and still be a football junkie like I always am and just kinda be around the team and help any way possible.
PS: Do you feel like being injured and only being able to focus on the film has helped you to become a better quarterback?
BR: Absolutely. I think the more you think about football, the more film you watch, the better you’re gonna be able to take and try to control the game so to speak. And that’s what I really turned my attention to was how could I teach this so I better understand it, but also when I’m teaching it, I’m learning it better as well to teach these guys the offensive scheme. You know, if the safety rolls down, how do you counteract and I think that’s what I did with the other three quarterbacks that were really young.
Marquise was only a redshirt sophomore last year and two freshmen that were in the room with me and I’m a fifth year guy. So I took that upon myself as a challenge and said, hey, how can I not only better my knowledge of the game by teaching them, but also better their knowledge of the game, so they can be better quarterbacks and just kinda let them hear what I have to say and take it for what it’s worth. And if it means something to them, great, but if it doesn’t, no hard feelings. I think we both benefited from that happening.