North Carolina is well known for getting a lot of its basketball players into the NBA. The NFL, not so much, although there have been 215 Tar Heels drafted into the league. UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky looks to be the next UNC alumni and—barring any unforeseen circumstances—he could be the first Carolina signal-caller ever drafted in the first round. What about the other UNC quarterbacks who were drafted into the NFL?
Jack Kraynick in 1939 (12th round, 4th pick, 104 overall)
Jack Kraynick was drafted way back in the early days of the league by the Philadelphia Eagles. Other than that, it’s difficult to find any statistics or information about him. But he still is the first ever Tar Heels quarterback drafted, and that means something.
Jim Camp in 1948 (8th round, 10th pick, 65 overall)
Next, we have Jim Camp, drafted in 1948 by the Chicago Cardinals—who are now known as the Arizona Cardinals. Again, because of how long ago he played, it’s challenging to find information about Camp and his performances other than some rushing stats.
Jack Cummings in 1960 (30th round, 3rd pick, 351 overall)
Jack Cummings was drafted in 1960 by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 30th round. Yes, the 30th round. Cummings played for three years in the late ‘50s for the Tar Heels and seemed to be a typical quarterback of that generation: He only had 1,000 yards passing in a season once, he never completed better than 52% of his passes, and he finished with 24 interceptions to 19 touchdowns.
Danny Talbott in 1967 (17th round, 13th pick, 432 overall)
The next Tar Heel drafted came in 1967 when Danny Talbott was taken by the San Francisco 49ers; he was the 432nd overall player taken. Talbott’s statistical performance was like those of Cummings’, although he was a much better runner (12 rushing touchdowns in his career).
Jeff Beaver in 1968 (15th round, 23rd pick, 404 overall)
Jeff Beaver was taken by the Baltimore Colts—now located in Indianapolis—back in 1968. He was taken in the 15th round and, quite bizarrely, never actually did much in Chapel Hill. In his best statistical season, he threw for 514 yards, one touchdown and six interceptions. Man, football was even stranger back then than it is now.
Chris Kupec in 1975 (15th round, 19th pick, 383 overall)
We finally enter the modern era of the NFL with Chris Kupec getting drafted in 1975 by the Buffalo Bills. Kupec is one of the better quarterbacks in UNC history, and he had a tremendous final season for the Heels, passing for just under 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns, as well as running for an additional nine scores.
Now, before we continue, you should know that everybody above may have been drafted, but none of them actually took a snap in the NFL. Even with UNC’s decent success throughout the years in college football, only two Tar Heel quarterbacks have actually played a down in the NFL—and one of them was the undrafted Scott Stankavage.
Other undrafted quarterbacks have bounced around from team to team, including guys like Darian Durant, Bryn Renner and last season’s Marquise Williams. Still, it’s clear that UNC hasn’t had much success in pumping out professional-quality quarterbacks. Let’s take a look at the one Tar Heel QB with the most NFL experience:
T.J. Yates in 2011 (5th round, 21st pick, 152 overall)
T.J. Yates was drafted in the 5th round back in 2011—easily the highest a quarterback has ever gone from UNC—by the Houston Texans. He had a stellar career in Chapel Hill, breaking numerous passing records (the single-season passing record is within Trubisky’s reach this season, however). Yates has had an up-and-down career in the NFL after winning a playoff game in his rookie season, and now facing free agency. It remains to be seen if Yates will be able to forge out a few more years as a backup. He last played for the Texans until a season-ending injury cost him his spot.
And now we get to Mitch Trubisky—who will presumably enter next spring’s draft and be one of the first quarterbacks off the board. It may be a little bit of recency bias, but Trubisky already appears to be one of the best quarterbacks UNC has ever had in the NFL. He surely will be the highest drafted and, if so, he'll add to the short list of guys who have played big-league snaps. That’ll be enough to etch his name into Chapel Hill history.