The defensive backs meeting room in Kenan Football Center is now named in honor of Da’Norris Searcy, a 2007-10 safety and kick returner who went on to playing nearly a decade in the NFL. Searcy is making a significant gift to the Carolina football program and will be recognized in signage outside the room used by the “Rude Boys,” as the Tar Heel defensive backs have been known for three decades.
“Carolina got a kid out of a tough situation and gave me an opportunity to better myself as a person,” says Searcy, who signed in Butch Davis’s first recruiting class from his home in Decatur, Ga. “I experienced so much and learned so much. I wanted to experience new things, new places, different people. Chapel Hill opened my mind to so much more than just Atlanta. It gave me a sense that the world is bigger than just my neighborhood. I just want to give back and leave a lasting legacy for ‘The Rude Boys’ and the Carolina football program.”
Searcy exemplified the “Rude Boy” tradition during his time as a Tar Heel—tough, dependable, versatile, productive and smart. He made an immediate impact on special teams as a freshman and sophomore, then started at strong safety and returned punts for two years, making 72 tackles, intercepting five passes and having seven break-ups for a unit that over two years allowed only 300 yards and 20 points a game.
Searcy was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. He played four years there, then three at Tennessee and one at Carolina. He built an outstanding career around his physical skills of having enough speed to play coverage but enough bulk and strength to shore up the run game. And his intangibles over his college and pro careers were the secret sauce—his heart, intensity and intelligence.
Searcy grew up following the Atlanta Falcons and occasionally going to a game in the Georgia Dome. Players like Deion Sanders, Lamar Anderson and Michael Vick were among his heroes. It was a “surreal moment,” he says, when he played as a visiting player against the Falcons.
He was a free agent as of August 2019.
“I am ready to go if the phone rings,” he says. “But if it doesn’t, that’s fine. I’ve had a great career and am ready to spend time with my family.”
Tommy Thigpen recruited the Atlanta area in the 2006-07 period and thought Searcy as a running back reminded him of Shawn Draughn, one of the Tar Heels’ top tailbacks at the time. But he was also a linebacker and a savage pursuer of the football.
“You knew he was a kid who would come in and work his butt off,” says Thigpen, today the linebackers coach on Mack Brown’s staff. “He’s a great story. Came out of a rough neighborhood. Gave you everything he had. Made the best of his opportunity and made a lot of money on Sunday. Married a Carolina girl and started a family. He’s so appreciative of everything Carolina did for him. He wants to come to practice this fall sometime and talk to the kids. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why you coach.”
The Tar Heel coaches felt his future was at safety, which was fine with Searcy.
“I always had a sense of pride in my versatility,” he says. “Playing safety gave me the opportunity to come back in the box and play my natural position as a linebacker. I got to mix it up in the run game. But being athletic I could also cover tight ends. And then at times as a nickel back I went against slot receivers. I went against guys bigger than me and quicker and shiftier than me.”
Searcy looks back on his Carolina career, which included three eight-win seasons in 2008-10 and a Music City Bowl win over Tennessee in 2010, and is particularly proud of a 20-17 road win at Virginia Tech in 2009.
“Any home games we won were great,” he says. “But I’d say beating Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Thursday night will forever be one of my top games. It was so loud, and to go up there and win and hear a pin drop, that was great. Going into Virginia my senior year and finally winning there was special, too. The way we won was huge (a 44-10 win). It wasn’t like a last second field goal. We dominated from opening kickoff to finish. Those were two big moments.”
Searcy paid tribute to his position’s heritage by having a “Rude Boys” tattoo imprinted on his biceps.
“I love that name,” he says. “We were known as rude boys, ball-hawks with a dominating personality. We were the back end of the defense, the last line.”
Rams Club officials Brian Chacos and Ken Mack worked with Searcy on the gift, and all three of them hope this can be a domino that helps other current NFL Lettermen contribute to the program Brown is building.
“I’m proud to create a lasting legacy,” Searcy says. “When I’m dead and gone, my kids can bring their kids up there and show them, ‘This was your grandfather.’ Carolina helped me live out a dream and be part of something special.”
The impact of giving comes through in wonderful stories about Carolina student-athletes and coaches, as well as the donors who make their opportunities possible. Learn more about the life-changing impact you can have on a fellow Tar Heel through one of the features included here: