NC State football team opens camp ahead of 2022 ACC season


NC State football players have learned valuable life lessons in real time in 2021: Players have been injured, seemingly one after another and almost every week, and the team’s biggest game of the season has was canceled a few hours after its start time.

The biggest takeaway of all this for the team? Never take anything for granted.

There was an added level of excitement as the players took to the pitch for the first practice on Wednesday on the first official day of practice ahead of the 2022 season, an excitement that moved at least one player to tears.

“The little things,” linebacker Payton Wilson said of what made him so emotional. “Put on my training pants, go to meetings with my school bag and my notebook, things that I didn’t have the opportunity to do a year ago. Everything about today was amazing to me.

Wilson played all six quarters a year ago before suffering a season-ending injury. He said on Wednesday he held back tears as he walked onto the pitch.

“It feels good for your heart to be back on the court and doing what you love in life,” said head coach Dave Doeren. “It’s a great feeling as a coach to see these guys and the emotions some of them have had.”

Last year, seven defensive starters, including Wilson, suffered season-ending injuries. In December, hours before kickoff, NC State’s Holiday Bowl game against UCLA was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Bruins.

Despite all the preseason hype – with 18 returning starters – being back on the grass, as Doeren likes to say, for day one, has been invaluable for this group.

NC State was chosen to finish second in the Atlantic Division by the media. Quarterback Devin Leary was named ACC Preseason Player of the Year. Everything is set to be a great year, but everything can also be ripped off in an instant.

“Tragedy and injury in football, that sort of thing puts life into perspective,” Doeren said. “They make you take inventory of what you have and how much you really appreciate certain things you take for granted, like practice. These guys who were probably more excited about the games, now it’s like I’m here every day and it’s a blessing.

Back in the fire

Only two players, excluding quarterbacks, wore green jerseys on Wednesday, meaning they are recovering from injuries.

It’s a far cry from spring, when several key players looked sideways or wore the standout green top.

Fagan wore a red jersey on Wednesday. Like Wilson, Fagan only played two games last season before suffering an arm injury that required surgery. He looked back in regular season form on Day 1, at one point jumping up and landing a one-handed interception.

While some players may dread the heat of day one, Fagan was grateful to be back there.

“I missed being in the heat with them,” Fagan said. “Just being there, I missed it.”

Cyrus Fagan added that Ruffin McNeill, special assistant to the head coach, told him how important it was to share his message with the rest of the team.

“It’s a blessing to be out,” Fagan said. “I just have to keep taking it day by day, because one piece took me out.”

From left, North Carolina State linebackers Drake Thomas (32), Isaiah Moore (1) and Payton Wilson (11) line up for a drill during the Wolfpack’s first fall camp practice in Raleigh, North Carolina on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. Ethan Hyman

To stay healthy

By September 3, Wolpack’s opener at East Carolina, the team’s goal is to stay healthy.

Doeren knows that if he can keep the players out of the green shirts, the defense has the potential to be the best he’s had. As they moved through the training grounds on Wednesday, the pace was evident, this was a group that had done it before.

The next four weeks will be difficult. no more training in the 90s, with pads, as the team sorts out the depth chart, but there will be few complaints.

“Every day is not given,” said security Tanner Ingle. “As a team, we’ve done a really good job of figuring that out. People who have come back from injury are even more grateful. It just gives us more motivation to go out there and play harder.

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Sportswriter Jonas Pope IV covered college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central, NC State and the ACC for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.


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