An article in yesterday's Washington Post said that North Carolina and Clemson shared the 1981 Atlantic Coast Conference football championship. Clemson won the title outright.

One day in August several college all-America football players were gathered at a banquet in New York City to promote the season. As usual, everybody was making a fuss over Herschel Walker of Georgia.

And Pittsburgh's Dan Marino and Stanford's John Elway were asked their thoughts on the world.

Meanwhile, Kelvin Bryant, the tailback from North Carolina, was in the back of the room where things were a little more quiet, like himself.

"I know Herschel is a great running back, but I think I can be just as good in many ways," Bryant said to a listener who intruded on his quiet. "If I can stay healthy, I can show some people what I can do."

The single most important phrase in Kelvin Bryant's career here has been "If I can stay healthy . . . "

In four years as a Tar Heel, Bryant has missed 14 of 42 games. He suffered a shoulder separation as a freshman and missed most of the 1979 season. Last year, he scored 15 touchdowns and rushed for 520 yards in the first three games, then injured his left knee and was out for a month.

On Aug. 23, in practice Bryant twisted his left ankle, rested it for two weeks, then reinjured it the first game of the season and missed the next two games.

But he came off the bench to rush for 142 yards against Wake Forest, and started and ran for 107 yards in Carolina's most recent game, Oct. 16, against North Carolina State.

And Bryant said today he hopes to be near full strength at 12:30 p.m. Saturday when Maryland comes to Kenan Stadium before an expected standing-room-only crowd and regional television audience.

Still, the injuries that have disrupted Bryant's career always seem to be lingering behind the next linebacker.

"I guess I've had a lot of bad breaks," Bryant said, reflecting on his career. "It's a little frustrating to have this keep happening. I don't know what it is. I always give 100 percent. Even when I'm out of the game and on the sidelines I concentrate 100 percent on the game.

"I (still) think I'm strong and durable enough to play in the NFL. And I'm looking forward to the NFL. I think I've done about what I wanted to in college. I'm doing pretty well (academically). I won't graduate on time because I missed a semester last spring, but I will graduate.

"I don't get down because of the injuries anymore," Bryant said. "My freshman year (after the shoulder separation) I was real worried because I had never had injuries in high school -- none."

Bryant sulked much of his freshman year. His girlfriend, Lisa Staton, a track all-America at UNC, whose career has also been hampered by injuries, had to prod Bryant into staying in condition that year.

When Bryant is healthy he is as much fun to watch as any running back in the country. Even Walker.

He's slightly faster than Walker and runs more gracefully, somewhat like O.J. Simpson, observers say.

"It's Bryant's acceleration that stands out," said Maryland Coach Bobby Ross, who formerly coached running backs for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL.

"He darts, and accelerates through creases," said Bryant's coach, Dick Crum.

Despite the injuries, Bryant will probably rush for 1,000 yards for the third straight year. Having missed two full games and parts of two others, Bryant is only the third-leading rusher on a team that plays three tailbacks. He has run for 389 yards, and the Tar Heels have five to play.

Bryant, however, is a longshot, at best, to win the Heisman Trophy he talked about challenging Walker for last August.

"It was never my main goal," Bryant said of the award. "But I did think about it a little. It was always in the back of my mind, behind the team goals."

Being the eighth of 10 children raised in Tarboro, N.C., taught Bryant not to depend on individual wishes.

He said his two immediate goals are to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and the national titles. Maryland and Clemson are the obstacles to the first goal.

"I'd like to win it outright," Bryant said. "Not share it with Clemson," as the Tar Heels did last season. "And if one of the undefeated teams loses," he added, "we've still got a chance," at the national title.

So for now, while Bryant's shoulder is intact and his knee is strong and his ankles and thighs aren't twisted and bruised, Kelvin Bryant is quietly enjoying his last autumn playing college football and being part of the pine tree-lined hills of North Carolina.