If you're talking game changing linebackers this season in the ACC Nate Irving tops my list. So why is he not among the five finalists for the Dick Butkus Award? That has an outhouse stench to it.
"It was great to see those fans up there, smiling and screaming, and being able to come out and play in front of them," Irving said. "It felt good, knowing that this was my last game. It kind of was emotional. I didn't cry, though. I didn't cry."
There were more hospital pranks from the linebacker. Irving’s right leg — the one that wasn’t badly fractured — kept buckling mischievously when Spencer helped him try to stand up.
"I was glad to see him doing those things," Spencer said. "He still had his sanity. He was still the same clown, still the same Nate Irving."
Raycom Sports’ Emmy Award-winning summer television series, "Havoline Football Saturdays in the South," continues the seventh season with episode five this weekend. The series, with six one-hour episodes, is hosted by Tim Brando and syndicated in 65 markets throughout the greater southeast and Atlantic coast.
Last June, NC State’s Nate Irving had his life turned upside down. The linebacker was traveling back to Raleigh from home one night when he lost control of his car and flipped off the road. His car totaled, Nate woke up in the hospital the next day. Returning to the field this year, the Wolfpacker talks about being away from the game, rehabbing his broken bones and reliving that fateful night.
"I try to imagine what it will be like running out of the tunnel and making that first tackle in that first game," Irving said. "I try to imagine what it will be like over and over, but I can't grasp the emotions I'll be going through, what I'll be feeling and thinking."
Doctors have cleared him to join the team for spring practice, which starts today. But even eight months after the crash, he plans to take his return to the field cautiously, seeing how much his body will allow him to do.
Irving's plan ("Lord willing," he said) is to be at full strength by the beginning of the season. He still faces many unknowns on the football field, though.
He's not as strong or fast as he was before the crash, but he hopes to exceed his previous physical benchmarks by the time the season starts.
Coming into 2010, though, Irving is lucky to be suiting up at all after suffering a badly broken leg, separated shoulder and collapsed lung in a horrific car accident last June, knocking him out for all of 2009 and putting his football future in doubt. In fact, it may still be in some doubt -- the pain only subsided enough to allow him to begin running again last month, and he was just cleared for spring practice earlier this week.
"I’ve been cleared, so I think I can come back out, contribute, and help some of the guys out if they have any questions or with leadership," Irving said. "… I just want to provide what I can for the team."