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All-time UNC Football Top 25 Countdown: No. 13 Vonnie Holliday

The defensive standout was a captain on one of Carolina’s best teams.

Virginia V North Carolina Getty

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.

The 1997 season was one of the best for the North Carolina Tar Heels in football. In Mack Brown’s final season in Chapel Hill, UNC finished the year 11-1. They were ranked in the final top ten for the second consecutive season, ranking sixth in the final AP Poll and fourth in the final Coaches Poll. The ‘97 Heels tied a school record for wins in a season, as they are just one of four teams (the others being 1972, 1980, and 2015) in program history with 11 wins.

The Carolina defense in 1997 was ranked second in the country in total defense. Here is an example of that exceptional defense, via the 1998 media guide: “The 209.3 yards is the lowest per game average in the Atlantic Coast Conference since Clemson allowed 184.7 yards per game in 1963.” The team’s rushing defense was ranked fourth in the nation, allowing just 77.9 rushing yards per game and only five rushing touchdowns the entire season. One of the key players on that stout UNC rushing defense was defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday.

Career at UNC

Vonnie Holliday Career Statistics

Year Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
Year Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
1994 12 0-0 0-0
1995 39 4-11 1-7
1996 47 11-67 5-48
1997 64 13-61 5-46
Totals 162 28-139 11-101

Honors and Awards

The 1997 team boasted five first-team All-ACC performers on defense, including Holliday. In 1996, he was named to the academic All-ACC team.

Top Games at UNC

The Tar Heels hosted Virginia in September 1997 and Holliday went on a tear, recording 10 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack:

In the next game against TCU, Holliday once again recorded ten total tackles and had three tackles for loss.

After UNC

Holliday was selected 19th overall in the 1998 NFL Draft by Green Bay. In his rookie year he recorded eight sacks, which would be his career high. He was an all-rookie selection and was second place for defensive rookie of the year honors.

49ers V Packers

He spent five seasons with the Packers before signing with the Chiefs. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in his second year in Kansas City, and he was released. He later signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

In four seasons with the Dolphins, he started all but one game in which he was available. Holliday spent the last four seasons of his career with three teams, eventually retiring after the 2012 season. He ended his career with 62.5 sacks and 413 total tackles.

Holliday established the Vonnie Holliday Foundation in 2001 and has been involved with the Boys and Girls Club in his native Camden, South Carolina. In 2010, he was named to the Top 10 Black Celebrity Philanthropists list thanks to his efforts raising money for brain cancer research.