Virginia WR Thorpe preps for meeting with UNC, ex-teammates
Virginia wide receiver T.J. Thorpe said there was no conflict with the coaching staff or anyone else that caused him to transfer from North Carolina after last season.
He was just looking for a better fit for himself.
The senior has found it at Virginia, where he’s one of the Cavaliers’ top play-makers.
And on Saturday when Virginia (2-4, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) looks to build off its first conference victory when it travels to North Carolina to play the Tar Heels (5-1, 2-0), Thorpe won’t have revenge on his mind.
He missed the first three games with a broken collarbone, and played sparingly in the fourth. Thorpe has started the last three, and while he has just eight catches, one of them went for 75 yards and a touchdown.
”My career has been clouded with injuries,” Thorpe said Monday. ”Anything you can think, I’ve pretty much been through as far as my time at Carolina. Ultimately me and my family just thought it was probably best for me to change scenery.
”Everybody’s wondering, `That really doesn’t answer the question for football,’ but it just wasn’t a good fit. And that’s really it. It was no bad blood between me and the coaches or anything like that. There’s no revenge that I feel like I need to have. It just wasn’t a good fit and I think everything worked out for the best.”
Beyond his play-making ability, Thorpe also brings a perspective that has already helped the Cavaliers.
In one of his seasons with the Tar Heels, they started 1-5 and lost to Miami in a Thursday night game. Thorpe said the loss tripped an attitude switch in the UNC locker room and North Carolina won six of seven the rest of the way.
He shared the story with the Cavaliers as they were losing four of their first five games.
”After the Pitt game, it was the same feeling,” he said, recalling Virginia’s humbling 26-19 loss to the Panthers last weekend. ”That’s why I said I knew we weren’t going to lose the Syracuse game because … the way we approached practice that week, the way that we bounced back from the adversity that hit in the Syracuse game. It was a different feel to the team that we hadn’t had all season. … Hopefully we can have that same run.”
It would help if Thorpe and quarterback Matt Johns can regain their timing and chemistry.
”Canaan (Severin) was down for a week or two during camp, and T.J. was my guy,” Johns said. ”There was no question about it. The defense was trying to stop it, and they still couldn’t stop it. He’s just a competitor. He knows this is a big weekend for him, but he also knows that this is about this team and not himself.”
Thorpe said he was surprised to see the Tar Heels on Virginia’s schedule this year. Johns said that’s not the case, he said the receiver has known all along that he would see his old teammates but is trying not to become the center of attention.
”That’s just goes to show you how selfless he is,” Johns said.
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, know what they lost when Thorpe left, and what he can do on the field.
”We know T.J.’s a very gifted player,” coach Larry Fedora said. ”He can run, he can catch, he can run after the catch. … The one thing is, (the players) all know him. I imagine, for them, it’ll be a lot of fun.”
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
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