Last year, injuries caused a black cloud over UNC defensive end Dajaun Drennon’s season–leaving the senior motivated to stay healthy in 2017 and prove to the world what he’s truly capable of.
At 6-foot-4-inches tall–with 230 pounds of pure muscle and long, flowing dreadlocks–it’s impossible to miss Drennon on the UNC sidelines.
Wearing the No. 17 for head coach Larry Fedora, he almost looks like the Terminator decided to put on a Tar Heel uniform and take out his anger on opposing ball carriers.
He’s been a starter on defense in each of the last three seasons, serving as a bright spot on a unit which has found itself at the center of plenty of criticism.
Last year, however, a broken foot suffered in spring practice lingered all the way into the fall.
Drennon missed UNC’s first five games before returning in the infamous hurricane game against Virginia Tech. Not only did the Hokies blow the Tar Heels out in Kenan Stadium that day, the big man pulled a hamstring.
The second injury caused him to miss the next week’s game at Miami, and limited him to just a handful of snaps against Virginia.
Heading into this year, he’s doing everything he can to prevent a repeat performance.
“I’m in the training room every day,” Drennon said. “Hot tub. Cold tub. I’m doing whatever I can to stay healthy. That’s getting ready, [cryotherapy], just trying to stay healthy so I can maximize my potential for this final season.”
Ultimately, Drennon finished 2016 with just 17 tackles and saw his impact dwindle as new faces began to creep up the depth chart in his position.
Younger pass rushers like Malik Carney and Tomon Fox now figure to play a large role alongside Drennon this season as part of the defensive line rotation.
Unlike Drennon, however, Carney and Fox have more than just this year to show off their skills. For the senior, this is it—his last chance to show that football may have a place in his future.
“Everybody has aspirations to get to the league,” Drennon told reporters. “But I have other things I want to do. Since I’ve been playing here, we haven’t won a bowl game and we haven’t won an ACC Championship Game.
“Those are two things I really want to accomplish this year,” he continued. “If I can stay healthy and help lead my team to those two victories, I’m greatly fine with that.”
Given the question marks the Tar Heels face on offense right now, it’s safe to say that the defense will need to play a large role if the team has any hope of accomplishing those goals.
With that said, though, Drennon’s confidence has mirrored that of his teammates on that side of the ball to this point in training camp.
Asked what an NFL scout might see from him this season, the New Jersey native didn’t exactly beat around the bush.
“He’s gonna see a bunch of sacks, a lot of quarterback pressures, forced fumbles and [tackles for loss],” Drennon said. “We’re going to make something happen. We’re going all for it this year.”