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The ebb and flow of place kicker Connor Barth's career at North Carolina closely resembles that of the shoreline in his hometown Wilmington. And with a tidal wave of expectations coming into his senior year, the hopes of UNC might be placed squarely on the special teams captain's right foot.

But it wouldn't be the first time this has happened. While just a freshman, Barth nailed the game-winning field goal as time expired to defeat then-No. 4 Miami and send Chapel Hill into a frenzy.

The kick was the defining moment of Barth's career, and it instantly turned him into a campus celebrity.

"As soon as you do something big like that, it's like the whole town knows you," Barth said. "It's insane - if I would have never hit that kick, probably no one would have known who I was."

The Miami kick highlighted a banner freshman year for Barth in which he made 14 of 18 field goals and was named a second-team freshman All American by Rivals.com.

But then he ran into some trouble in the form of the dreaded sophomore slump. In his second season at UNC, Barth made just 11 of 21 field goal attempts.

"I stunk it up," he admitted.

Barth would come back strong in his junior year, though, making all 10 field goal attempts to become the only kicker in the NCAA rankings with a 1.000 field goal percentage.

"I've been around some very good ones and maybe (Cleveland Brown) Phil Dawson was probably the best place kicker," head coach Butch Davis said. "He had just a great mental framework, and I think that Connor is very similar to that. He is so serious, and he takes such pride in trying to kick well."

Davis also said that Barth's ability to bounce back and overcome adversity allowed him to become one of the NCAA's most accurate kickers.

"And the other thing is, he takes such great pride - when he doesn't kick one well, I mean, it really bothers him," Davis said. "He'll go and practice that same kick 10 or 15 times on another field after that particular drill is over."

Entering this season, Barth has been named to the watch list for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award.

"I'm hoping to gain confidence and actually do well this year being on the watch list and make it to the semifinals," he said.

"It's just cool to be honored with the top 30 guys in the country."

Still a surfer at heart, Barth has distinguished himself as one of the more colorful personalities on the squad. He entered training camp sporting a mustache reminiscent of former Oakland A's pitcher Rollie Fingers and is working on starting up a T-shirt company called Outrageous Clothing.



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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