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All-Time UNC Football Top-25: No. 2 Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice

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The two-time Heisman runner up was the centerpiece of the best years in UNC football history.

Charlie Justice
UNC Athletic Communications

This summer, Tar Heel Blog will profile the top 25 players in the history of the North Carolina football program. The rankings were determined by votes from readers and staff.

Like a locomotive, Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice was unstoppable. Coming to Chapel Hill after serving in the Navy in World War 2, Justice is the most decorated Tar Heel of all time, being selected All-America all four years and finishing second in Heisman voting in 1948 and 1949. He played dominated at both running back and quarterback, and also punted.

Justice was also an important figure for a community—and country—still recovering from World War 2. With dazzling skills and a laid-back personality, he was beloved by UNC fans and fellow Americans nationwide.

Career at UNC

Box scores are difficult to come by from that long ago, but Justice’s career statistics are jaw dropping. The catalyst behind the most successful four-year stretch in UNC history, Justice racked up 4,883 career yards, a mark that stood until 1994. Carolina went 32-7-2 in that time span, including two berths in the Sugar Bowl and a national ranking of #1 midway through 1948—the sole instance in school history that UNC rose to the top of the rankings. Between running, passing, and kicking, Justice was responsible for 64 touchdowns and scored 234 points. He also averaged 42.6 yards per punt and 14.2 yards per punt return.

Honors and Awards

No other Tar Heel can match Justice’s level of national recognition. Alongside the All-America selections and Heisman runner ups, Justice won the 1948 Walter Camp Memorial Trophy and was voted the 1948 Player of the Year by the Washington Touchdown Club. He is in the College Football Hall of Fame, and a statue of Justice now sits in front of the Kenan Football Center in Chapel Hill.

Top Games at UNC

As a freshman, Justice ran 17 times for 170 yards in his coming out party against fierce rival Virginia. In 1948, Justice scored three touchdowns in a 21-14 victory over Georgia, including a game-winning 84 yard punt return touchdown.

Career after UNC

Justice was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 16th round of the 1950 draft. He saw limited success, retiring at age 30 after playing only four full seasons. He ended his career with 1284 rushing yards and three touchdowns on an average of 4.8 yards per carry.

Justice died in his home in 2003 at the age of 79. His number 22 is retired by UNC.