MONTGOMERY – The 2019 Camellia Bowl could be a North Carolina football reunion of sorts this weekend in Montgomery.
Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson and offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorth, and FIU cornerbacks coach Bryn Renner and tight ends coach Drew Davis were all together at North Carolina for the 2013 season.
Anderson had just been named North Carolina’s offensive coordinator under new head coach Larry Fedora. Renner was the starting quarterback for the Tar Heels, while Davis was an incoming freshman quarterback.
Davis had signed with Tar Heels to play for his father, Butch Davis, but Davis was let go following the 2012 season and a new regime took over in Chapel Hill.
“Bryn Renner was starting QB at North Carolina for me,” Davis said. “Then after the coaching change, Coach (Blake) Anderson coached him for one year. My son was a freshman quarterback there. He had a great high school career, went there and then obviously things broke up there, he went to Ole Miss. He was at Ole Miss for three years. So they were at North Carolina with Coach Anderson for one season.
“Talking to my son, I asked him how he liked it. He said the coach was a very good guy. He always tells you the truth. He was good at teaching. Everything from both of them was very positive.”
Anderson recalled how Brenner and Davis handled a tough situation.
“Drew had been through a lot with his Dad leaving, that’s not an easy transition,” Anderson said. “I thought he handled it really, really well. It could have been extremely awkward and he did not allow it to be.”
Renner is known as one of the most decorated quarterbacks in North Carolina history, after rewriting the UNC record books from 2011-13 while playing in Chapel Hill. Upon leaving, the three-year starter at QB owned the school record for most 300-yard passing games in a career and set the record for most passing touchdowns in program history twice. Renner’s deadly accurate 66.5 completion percentage while at UNC also ranks first all-time at the program.
The West Springfield, Virginia native ranks second all-time amongst Tar Heel QBs in career passing touchdowns (64) while ranking third in career passing yards (8,221) and career completions (668).
Following a recording-breaking collegiate career at UNC, Renner spent time in the NFL as he played for the Steelers, Chargers, Titans, Ravens and Broncos. After his NFL career, Renner broke into the coaching ranks as Austin Peay’s quarterbacks coach in 2016, before heading back to his alma mater, UNC, for the same position a year later.
The former 4-star recruit, who was signed by Butch Davis at UNC, was named to the 2013 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List and Maxwell Award Watch List after being named 2012 All-ACC Honorable Mention. In addition to football, Renner also played baseball for the Tar Heels at first base and DH.
Davis has always been around some of the top college programs in the country including his early years around his father’s teams at Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina. He came to FIU after serving as a backup quarterback for the Ole Miss Rebels from 2014-16. He originally committed to play for his dad’s former team at North Carolina back in 2012.
Davis was part of two Ole Miss teams that played in New Year’s Six Bowls. The 2014 Rebels defeated No. 1 Alabama on their way to a 9-4 finish and an appearance in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. The 2015 Rebels followed that season with another win against then No. 2 Alabama on their way to a 10-3 finish and win over Oklahoma State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Prior to his college career, Davis started at quarterback for three seasons at East Chapel Hill (N.C.) and finished as the most prolific passer in school history. He threw for more than 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior, set a North Carolina state record with 43 completions in a game vs. Carrboro and finished second in state history with 323 completions in 2011. He earned all-conference honors in football as a junior and senior.
Anderson is happy to be reunited with Brenner and Davis this week in Montgomery.
“We had a lot fun and we worked hard. It was one of those rooms, like a lot of locker rooms, where you had to have thick skin. We would pick on each other, but we cared about each other and really had a great time. It’s fun to be on the other sideline this week.”
One of the highlights of Camellia Bowl week comes the day the two teams visit the Rosa Parks Museum in downtown Montgomery.
The Rosa Parks Museum is a living memorial for Mrs. Parks and elevates her legacy by serving as a platform for scholarly dialogue, civic engagement, and positive social change. The Museum includes a permanent exhibit, “The Cleveland Avenue Time Machine,” as well as temporary art exhibitions and educational programs throughout the year.
Arkansas State is making its second appearance in the Camellia Bowl and several players had the opportunity to visit the museum in 2017 and again in Thursday.
“Some of us played in the Camellia Bowl two years ago, so this has been another great opportunity to come back to Montgomery and visit the Rosa Parks Museum again as part of the bowl week” ASU junior linebacker Tajhea Chambers said. “It has served as a great reminder for what she did for the community, as well as to see how much she sacrificed for what she believed in and the way she helped others.”
FIU got to experience the museum for the first time and linebacker Sage Lewis said he was impacted by what he saw.
“I definitely feel like it was impactful,” Lewis said. “It’s a blessing to be here and see all the historical things this city has to offer. I feel like this was good for our team. This brings our team closer. I feel like the team does not really come together with football, it’s what happens off the field that brings the team together. So something as historic as this, just to see a small piece of history right here was very amazing. Being thankful and not taking things for granted was one of the biggest things I took from this whole experience. “