The North Carolina Tar Heels made their way from Chapel Hill to El Paso on Sunday afternoon and arrived just after 5 p.m. local time for the Sun Bowl. From the first moment the team stepped out of the terminal, there was a festive mood at the El Paso International Airport and not just because of the Christmas holiday.
The team was greeted by mariachi music and folklorico dancers as players danced along with them and head coach Larry Fedora donned a Carolina blue sombrero.
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“The whole ceremony was awesome. It was really festive,” Fedora said after the welcome, “I know our guys really enjoyed it because they were really looking forward to it.”
For Fedora, this trip to the Sun Bowl is a return to familiar territory. The College Station native was an assistant coach at Baylor in 1992 when the Bears played Arizona in the Sun Bowl. He also played at Austin College in Sherman and was an assistant head coach at Garland High School.
As for playing in the stadium, Fedora was last in El Paso in 2011 as the head coach of Southern Mississippi facing UTEP in Conference USA.
“I’m from here, my wife’s from here. Two of my kids were born here in Texas,” Fedora said, “We’re looking forward to another great experience.”
As for the game itself, the Tar Heels face a Stanford team that will be without running back Christian McCaffrey, who announced he would not be playing in the Sun Bowl. On the other side, Fedora has a standout quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, who some NFL Draft experts project as a first round pick.
“He (Trubisky) has had a tremendous year,” Fedora said, “I hope he gets to wow some people because he’s been so good for us. He’s excited about playing in this game and he wants to win.”
The Tar Heels are focused on winning this game to wrap up the 2016 season, but Fedora also wants the players to enjoy the trip this week in El Paso.
“I know from experience that this whole community embraces this bowl game and they have for a long time and our players are just excited to be here and are looking forward to a great week.”