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All-Time UNC Football Countdown: No. 22 Ryan Switzer

THB’s All-Time greatest list continues with the best returner that UNC, and probably the game of football, has ever seen.

NCAA Football: The Citadel at North Carolina
Ryan Switzer - No. 22 on THB’s All-Time UNC Football List
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC Career


2013 32 341 10.7 57 3 25 502 20.08 5 86
2014 61 757 12.4 75 4 37 172 4.65 0 31
2015 55 697 12.7 89 6 24 302 12.6 2 85
2016 96 1112 11.6 75 6 16 106 6.62 0 31
Ryan Switzer Stats Stats via ESPN

Ryan Switzer came to UNC as an undersized three-star recruit out of George Washington High School in Charleston, West Virgina. Even in his small stature, he made an immediate impression as a big-play guy on Special Teams. At the close of his freshman season, he led the NCAA with 20.9 yards per punt return. As a freshman, he tied the season NCAA record (while setting the career UNC and season ACC records) for punt returns for a touchdown at five.

This is notable for a few reasons: First, he did not notch his first punt return touchdown until the ninth game of the season. Secondly, this was a UNC record that had been held for 64 years when Charlie Justice set the record back in 1949.

If Switzer could do most of this in the final five games of his first season at UNC, what else could he do? Well, a lot actually.

During his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, Switzer led the team in receptions (61, 55, and 96) and yards (757, 697, and 1,112). During his junior season, he returned two more punts for touchdowns to set the career ACC mark at seven. By the end of his senior season, he held UNC records for career receptions (243) and career receiving yards (2,903). He also holds the UNC records for career punt return yards (1,082) and receptions in a single season (96 in 2016).

Video Credit: Taylor Vippolis

Awards and Honors

Ryan Switzer earned numerous awards and accolades. Most recently, Switzer was named a recipient of the prestigious Patterson Medal awarded to top Student-Athletes at UNC.

Per his official bio at, he is listed as also having the following awards:

• 2016 First-Team All-ACC Wide Receiver (ACSMA, Coaches)

• 2016 Third-Team All-ACC Specialist (ACSMA)

• 2015 All-America All-Purpose (AFCA)

• 2015 First-Team All-ACC Specialist (Coaches)

• 2015 Second-Team All-ACC Specialist (ACSMA)

• 2015 Third-Team All-ACC Wide Receiver (ACSMA, Coaches)

• 2014 Third-Team All-ACC Wide Receiver (ACSMA, Coaches)

• 2013 First-Team All-America (FWAA, Athlon)

• 2013 Second-Team All-America (

Top Game at UNC

Ryan Switzer had a career day, as far as receiving goes, during his senior season in a home win over Pitt. He hauled in a school-record-tying 16 catches for 208 yards and one touchdown. He became the eighth Tar Heel to eclipse the 200-yard mark in a single game.

Video Credit: UNCTarHeelsAthletics

Unforgettable Moment

Switzer was a single punt return touchdown away from tying the NCAA career record. During a game at Wake Forest during his junior season, Switzer took a punt from his own 29-yard line. He took off and found a wide open seam. There were no opposing players to be found. Through the course of the return, the officials blew it dead saying that Switzer’s arm raised to his chest signaled a fair catch. You be the judge. Fair Catch or Touchdown?

Post-UNC Career

Ryan Switzer was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 133rd overall pick in the 4th Round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Since arriving in Dallas, he has received high-praise from coaches, teammates, and media. Most recently, Cole Beasley called Switzer “a baller.”

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Rookie Minicamp
Ryan Switzer-Dallas Cowboys Minicamp
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports