“I’ve been out to practice and I try to go to meetings everyday,” Justice said. “I’m not trying to get in the way though. Coach [Tommy] Thigpen can coach them and I don’t need to be over there.”
Justice, who broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot on Sept. 17 versus Wisconsin, will miss the remainder of the season; and therefore, his collegiate career is likely over. The Port Orange, Fla. native started the first two games of this year and has 22 career starts to his credit, after redshirting as a freshman.
Justice amassed over 205 tackles over four seasons.
“Doug is a leader on this football team and has been for two years now,” John Bunting said. “When we ask him to do whatever, he’s always available, whether it’s talking to the team, making appearances, going over to the children’s hospital or talking with the linebackers. He is somebody I have asked to be around our players on that sideline, listen to what’s going on and see if he might be able to offer some type of advice.
“Sometimes it’s easier for him to comprehend and translate something and relay it to a player than a coach could, because he’s like a coach on the field.”
Along with fellow senior Tommy Richardson, Justice has seen the UNC linebackers take tremendous strides of late. Considering the personnel attrition the position group has had to overcome in recent years, Justice says he couldn’t be prouder of the way the Tar Heels are playing now defensively.
“They’re really playing out of this world and I’m really, really happy about it,” Justice said. “We’ve been getting three-and-outs and holding their rushers from getting 100 yards. That’s exciting. That’s something to build off of. To be where we came from a couple of years ago when I played to last year… It’s nice to see them doing what they’re doing, but I would also love to be out there with them.”
Justice, who is scheduled to be married in May, realizes there is a fine line between helping out and becoming a distraction. So far there has been nothing but positives having him available and his vast playing experience to draw from.
“It’s still good to have him around, because one thing that Doug has done is play a lot of football,” defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders said. “What he can do for these young kids coming off the field without the experience he has…he can talk them through it.”
Sophomore Durrell Mapp, who has moved over from WILL to MIKE, is one who is trying to make the most of having Justice around.
“He talks to me and really helps me out with my reads,” Mapp said. “He helps me to be a better player.”
“I think I do more on the day of the game, helping them settle down and stay lower,” added Justice. “I try to help them on the day of the games to try and relax and say, ‘Hey, you guys can play and you can play well.’