“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant, and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
- Isoroku Yamamoto
Rare is it the occasion that you get to bear witness to nights that define a program, victories that become etched into the archives and change the narrative for how you’ll be perceived.
In front of just over 14,000 strong, where the most cantankerous of voices echoed out into the Queen City night from a student section splattered with green, the Charlotte 49ers staked claim to their first ever victory over a Power Five program, earning retribution over an institution that had overpowered them in every aspect less than a year prior.
Nine long years of building the foundation for success just to break down the walls and raise them back up again, starting from scratch with a new mantra, the gold standard. If it’s a shutout drubbing at home to Georgia State, a 36-point loss to Appalachian State on the road, or an international flight to Nassau for the first ever bowl appearance in school history, changing the narrative of what Charlotte football means to the community that created it has always been more than just a result in the box score, or the time that it took to get there.
Time that it took to get there bearing seminal weight, as the two-hour bus ride down I-85 back to University City Boulevard after an embarrassing 53-19 defeat in Durham on Halloween night never swayed this group into thinking that perseverance wouldn’t pay off.
“When we got here it didn’t feel like an upset, we felt like we should beat this team. Just knowing the preparation that we put into the offseason, doing everything we needed to do up to this moment, it feels really good to know we actually came out on top.”
Friday night’s end was Charlotte finally calling checkmate, even as fans from the lower levels prematurely started removing their shirts and barreling towards midfield before the final seconds had even been drained away from the clock. It doesn’t need to be labeled a groundbreaking achievement, a magic moment, the beginning of an underdog dynasty.
Sometimes for a young, blue-collar program like the one Will Healy’s producing, reaping the reward of hard work and dedication is enough if it changes your perspective, even if that perspective is still under construction.
“There were times where we thought, are we doing the right thing? Questioning a little bit, and it always just came to back to a belief and trusting what we’re doing each and every day is going to at some point and time lead to success. I don’t know when, but we’re doing it the right way and we believe in how we’re doing it. I can’t tell you how happy my heart is to see those guys smile again, because it’s been 20 months since i’ve been able to see that.”
It wasn’t just you, coach. It wasn’t just you.