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Matt Merletti
North Carolina
Nominated by Butch Davis

Nicknamed “Captain America” by his teammates, North Carolina safety Matt Merletti has made the most of his opportunity this season after missing all of 2009 with an ACL injury.

Not only was Merletti unable to play last year, but he was also unable to lead the team out of the tunnel with the American flag that his brother, who is in the military, gave him in 2008. The flag was significant because it was flown by Merletti’s brother on several missions in Iraq. Throughout the 2009 season, Merletti would choose one teammate to run out of the tunnel with the flag, and made it his personal goal to carry the flag at Carolina’s bowl game. He did.

Due to some players losing their eligibility, Merletti stepped into a starting role as a defensive back. In UNC’s first win of the season, a 17-13 win at Rutgers, Merletti picked off a pass in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. He also runs the American flag out for each game, honoring America’s military and his brother’s service.