No doubt the greatest player to ever come out of the North Carolina football program was Lawrence Taylor the legendary Linebacker for the New York Giants. I clearly remember the great LT like it was yesterday and he was a beast.
In 1970, McCauley broke the national rushing record for a single season with 1,720 yards which to this day is still the most ever by a North Carolina Tar Heel Running Back and is still second best all time in the ACC. What’s most impressive about his 1970 season rushing record that still stands for the Tar Heels is the quality of Running Backs that have played at North Carolina since his time. Some of those Running Backs include Natrone Means, Amos Lawrence, Leon Johnson, Ethan Horton and Giovani Bernard.
His single season rushing record also broke the one set by OJ Simpson of USC in 1968 when he won the Heisman Trophy. There would be no Heisman for Don McCauley, but he did get some votes and finished 9th in the voting. At another school, McCauley may have won it.
In his last game at North Carolina, McCauley ran for 279 yards on 47 carries in a 59-36 win over Duke. He was consensus All American and the Altantic Coast Conference player of the year in 1969 and 1970.
His coach at North Carolina was Bill Dooley and he is the brother of Georgia coaching legend Vince Dooley. Bill Dooley was an assistant to his brother at Georgia from 1964 to 1966 and they hired him to do the same things at North Carolina that were going on at Georgia, because the Bulldogs had just finished 10-1 and won the Southeastern Conference title.
Bill Dooley at North Carolina had a little success and they won the school’s first ever conference championship in 1971 and then 2 more conference titles after that. The North Carolina Tar Heels are more known for their basketball.
Dooley went 69-53-2 at North Carolina and they won championships in 1971, 1972 and 1977. He left the Tar Heels to take over the head job at Virginia Tech and he had them going until allegations of recruiting violations arose.
North Carolina’s first great Running Back was Charlie Justice and his number was 22 and the coaching staff reportedly gave McCauley 23 because they thought that McCauley could be at that level of a football player.
As a sophomore, McCauley only had 360 yards rushing as North Carolina struggled to a 3-7 finish in 1968. In 1969, the Tar Heels improved to 5-5 on the year and McCauley ran for 1,092 yards. They started the season with a 1-5 won – loss, but won 4 out of their last 5 games to even up their record which raised optimism in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Bill Dooley, the Tar Heels, and Don McCauley improved yet again in 1970 with an 8-4 record and McCauley just ran wild breaking NCAA records with his 1,720 yards rushing and 22 Touchdowns.
McCauley was a Tailback that ran with power at 6-1, 210, and he had breakaway speed. He was so versatile as we would all see demonstrated later when he played for the Colts in the NFL. He caught 52 passes while at North Carolina, which meant with his power and speed that he was always a threat on passing downs.
He also averaged nearly 30 carries per game as a senior so he was a workhorse.
McCauley wound up with 3,315 career rushing yards in his three seasons at North Carolina with 32 Touchdowns on the ground.
Don McCauley was Mr Everything for the Baltimore Colts. He only ran for 2,627 yards in his 11 year career in the National Football League, but he scored 40 Touchdowns on the ground. He caught 333 passes for 3,026 yards and 17 more Touchdowns.
He even returned kicks and took one of those back for a score.
He was never an elite NFL player but he was a good team guy and special teams contributor. He even threw 2 passes in his career hitting 1 for a Touchdown.
He was the guy in college, but in the NFL he was just one of those guys that every team needed to win football games. Clearly, he didn’t mind his role and brought his best every game and to every practice.