Carolina Panthers

Bly, Walls, Moore, Sharpe, Hamilton selected to College Football Hall of Fame

It would be tough to top the day Dre’ Bly had Thursday.

The former North Carolina defensive back celebrated his 37th birthday, coached his son’s baseball team and was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

“It’s quite a day, and to get the news on my birthday makes it even more special,” Bly said in a telephone interview from his SouthPark home. “The only bad thing about the day is that I’m getting older.”

It was a good day for four other Carolinians who joined Bly among the 16 members of the 2014 hall class, announced by the National Football Foundation.

Former Carolina Panthers tight end Wesley Walls, ex-Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore, former South Carolina and NFL receiver Sterling Sharpe and ex-Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, who grew up in Moncks Corner, S.C., also were selected.

During his redshirt freshman season in 1996, Bly led the nation with 11 interceptions, an ACC record that stood until N.C. State’s David Amerson picked off 13 passes in 2011.

Bly pointed out he had two interceptions against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl that season, but the NCAA did not count bowl game statistics toward its records at the time.

Bly was part of a talented defense that led the Mack Brown-coached Tar Heels to back-to-back, top-10 finishes and three consecutive bowl wins. Bly remains the only ACC player to be named a first-team All-American his first three seasons.

But Bly said defensive teammates such as Greg Ellis, Brian Simmons and Vonnie Holliday – all first-round picks in 1998 – made his job easier.

“All I had to do as a freshman was just go out there and play football,” he said.

St. Louis drafted Bly in the second round in 1999, and he won a Super Bowl with the Rams as a rookie. He played for four teams over 11 seasons before retiring to Charlotte after Detroit cut him in 2010.

Bly runs a youth baseball and football organization. He and his wife have five children between the ages of 5 and 13.

Walls, who also lives in Charlotte, was a first-team All-American at Mississippi after playing defensive end his first three seasons. After moving to tight end as a senior, he caught 36 passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns, and was drafted by San Francisco in the second round in 1989.

Walls, who is now 48, broke out after signing with the Panthers in 1996. He went to five Pro Bowls between 1996-2001, and had the most prolific receiving season by a Panthers tight end until Greg Olsen broke Walls’ mark in 2012.

Moore, the winningest coach in Appalachian State and Southern Conference history, posted a 215-87 record in 24 seasons in Boone from 1989-2012. He won 10 Southern Conference championships and an unprecedented three consecutive FCS titles from 2005-07.

Sharpe set virtually all of the Gamecocks’ receiving records during his All-America career, and caught at least one pass in a record 34 consecutive games.

Sharpe, the seventh overall pick by Green Bay in 1988, went to five Pro Bowls before his NFL career was cut short because of a neck injury. He lives near Columbia and is an analyst for the NFL Network.

The diminutive Hamilton led Georgia Tech’s resurgence under coach George O’Leary, and left as the ACC’s career leader in total offense.

And while acknowledging Hamilton’s impressive college career, Bly mentioned that “Joe Hamilton contributed to three of those 11 interceptions my freshman year.”

The Hall of Fame induction is scheduled for Dec. 9 in New York.