Chapel Hill, NC – Former All-ACC linebacker and veteran coach Tommy Thigpen has returned to the North Carolina football coaching staff, head coach Larry Fedora announced Tuesday.
Thigpen, who played at Carolina for Mack Brown, was a graduate assistant under Carl Torbush and spent four seasons coaching linebackers under John Bunting and Butch Davis, returns to Chapel Hill after stints at Auburn and Tennessee.
“We are excited to bring Tommy back to Carolina,” Fedora said. “He will bring intensity into the building both as a coach and as a recruiter, and I know he has a great passion for this program and this University. We welcome him, his wife Jacinda and their two daughters back into the Tar Heel family.”
“I am very thankful to be coming back home and even more thankful to Coach Fedora for giving me the opportunity to be a part of his staff,” Thigpen said.
Thigpen was a Parade All-American and Virginia Defensive Player of the Year at Potomac High School in Dumfries, Virginia. A four-year letterwinner at North Carolina from 1989-92, Thigpen was a three-time All-ACC linebacker, earning first-team honors in 1991. He was co-captain of the 1992 team that went 9-3 and beat Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl, the first of seven straight bowl games for the Tar Heels in the 1990s. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Carolina.
Thigpen played professionally for the New York Giants in 1993-94 and the Barcelona Dragons in 1995-96 before beginning his coaching career as a UNC graduate assistant in 1998-99. He then coached linebackers at Tennessee State in 2000. In 2001-02, he coached cornerbacks and was the special teams coordinator at Bowling Green. Thigpen returned to Carolina after a stint at Illinois, where he was the cornerbacks coach in 2003 and the linebackers coach in 2004.
Thigpen coached the UNC linebackers for four seasons under Bunting and Davis before spending four seasons at Auburn, where he mentored the safeties (2009-11) and linebackers (2012). Under former Carolina defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, Thigpen helped the Tigers to the BCS National Championship in 2010, a season during which Auburn ranked ninth in the country in rush defense at 109.1 yards per game.
From there, Thigpen spent five seasons at Tennessee as the linebackers coach and, beginning in 2016, the defensive run game coordinator. In Knoxville, Thigpen coached linebackers A.J. Johnson, Curt Maggitt and Jalen Reeves-Maybin to All-SEC honors. The Volunteers won three straight bowl games in his time at UT, and he has either coached or played in nine bowl games during his career.
In addition to being a standout coach, Thigpen is widely considered one of the top recruiters in college football. He was named National Recruiter of the Year by Rivals.com in 2013 after helping to sign the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation at Tennessee. Thigpen was also honored by Rivals as one of the nation’s top 25 recruiters in 2007 while at Carolina.
Thigpen is married to the former Jacinda Webb and the couple has two daughters, Asia and Naja.