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August 13, 2011Kinston is an average small town in North Carolina, but is the home of Tar Heel-basketball great Jerry Stackhouse and current UNC swingman Reggie Bullock.
It is also home of another priceless gem, UNC's secretary of defense. No, not Dudley Bradley, but Quinton Coples.
The senior defensive end enters the 2011 season as a preseason All-American and projected to be a top ten pick in April's NFL Draft, but earlier this summer these high expectations appeared to be in limbo when the NCAA came inquiring about a trip he made to Washington, D.C.
Coples was later cleared, but the fear of what could have been coupled with Butch Davis's firing makes Carolina fans shudder.
As UNC interim head coach Everett Withers said, "We won't flinch," Coples remained calm.
"I wasn't nervous at all," Coples said. "You're nervous when you're guilty, and I wasn't guilty. I did everything the right way, so there was nothing to be nervous about."
Now that is cleared up, Coples can focus on football, and leading one of the ACC's and possibly the nation's best front fours.
After recording 59 tackles, 10 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss, and being named Second Team All-America in 2010, Coples will not slip under anyone's radar this season.
"Obviously I'm sure protections are going to slide his way in the pass game," Withers said. "People are going to block him with more than one guy a lot of times."
Despite embracing his leadership role on the team, the Kinston senior shies away from the lime light. He now sees life and football through a new set lens, humility.
"It's a big-time adjustment," Coples said. "I kind of look at myself as just an ordinary man, who plays college football, but in other people's eyes I'm seen as a hero or superstar, or whatever you picture me as. It's definitely an adjustment just to be comfortable with myself sometimes in certain situations."
Comfort on the football field is not something Coples struggles to find, as it is a place where success is a familiar theme for him. He is willing to make the sacrifice for the betterment of the team.
If that means taking on an extra blocker to free up someone else to get a sack, Coples will do it.
"That maturity about Quinton has shown that he understands that whether his numbers increase, decrease, stay the same is that somebody else on our defensive line is going to have some production, because of his abilities," Withers said.
"To me that shows a little bit of maturity about what Quinton Coples is about."