It’s pushing 2:00am here in Raleigh and I’m still not coming down from the high tonight. I committed to taking my daughter to a birthday party tomorrow at some place that I’ll have to check with my wife in the morning for the exact location (Dad of the Year over here), but all I know is it’s something like 45 minutes away and we - that is, my daughter and I - have to be there by 9:00am. By the grace of God and the strength of an unhealthy, and surely to be uncomfortable amount of caffeine, I’m going to make that happen despite being up this late, because this is a post that needs to and has to be written.
I love you, Emeka.
Emeka Emezie is plain and simple a fan favorite of the Wolfpack. There are players who tug at the heartstrings of the Pack faithful for a number of reasons: they put up unworldly numbers in herculean single season efforts, or maybe they’re feel-good walk-on stories, or perhaps they’re legacy guys.
Emeka is none of those.
This is a guy who simply puts in the hard work and puts it all on the field for his team. He’s not flashy, which is not to say that he doesn’t flash some seriously great plays, but rather... well, let me just say that when the most self-centered thing a guy does is bow to the fans after a touchdown, that’s just an amazing display of insight into the type of person someone is.
After a freshman year that flashed potential (and featured one play that we will not link to here because that’s not the point right now and we all know that he was in the endzone, dammit!), but ultimately saw him used mostly as a depth piece on a deep receiving corps, Emezie saw his role increase to the #3 receiver as a sophomore on another deep pass catching crew.
He produced. He looked good. Expectations were high.
Emeka entered his junior year, the 2019 season, as the undisputed top receiver on the Wolfpack. He was expected to immediately follow in the footsteps of Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers to be the next NC State receiver to top 1,000 yards in a season and move on to the NFL.
We all know that’s not how the 2019 season went. Due to injuries, bad play calling, bad luck, and a number of other things, that season went off the rails. Emeka led the team in receiving, but that’s not something most hang their hat on when everything else goes so poorly. Especially when people were looking for something and someone to blame for the lack of notches in the win column and the bad offensive play on the field.
This is when a person of lesser mettle would have given in. The opportunity was there to let the situation beat him down and for him to become an afterthought as he played out the string of his Wolfpack career. Or he could have packed his bags and jumped ship to go elsewhere for a fresh start.
Not Emeka. Dude just went to work.
He returned to Raleigh to lead the receiving corps of a resurgent offense that led a resurgent 2020 Wolfpack team. The team flipped their record on its head. They won seven ACC games while Emeka did clutch things like this:
With his name firmly in the record books and his degree in hand, Emeka had the opportunity to move on from Raleigh and chase NFL dreams. The NCAA, however, offered a chance for Emeka and other players in his situation an opportunity to return for another year. It was the NCAA’s way of tossing some good will - a rare move for that organization - for the players having to deal with the craziness that was 2020.
Emeka returned. A man on a mission.
And what a mission it has been.
He helped the Wolfpack break a losing streak to Clemson by doing things like this:
And tonight he helped engineer one of the most insane and improbable comebacks in Wolfpack history. And it was against UNC, no less.
This is a man who has battled his heart out in the Red and White for the last five years. He fought through the lows, continuing to improve himself and his team, so that he now has the opportunity to experience the highs. These monumental and memorable wins that he has had such a massive hand in bringing to life are a testament to his work during his time here.
His single season numbers aren’t going to break records, but his determination, hard work, and clutch playmaking ability have him just 105 yards away from becoming the third player in NC State history to top 3,000 career receiving yards.
Oh yeah - and he just so happens to already hold that career receptions record. That doesn’t happen by accident.
Thankfully, we still have another game (maybe two?) for Emezie to hit the field for State. More chances for him to make some “no way, how the hell did he just catch that?!” snags. More chances for him to leave defenders face down on the turf wondering the same thing.
Let’s enjoy them.
So if your kid has a birthday party in the greater Raleigh area tomorrow morning - or if your kid is attending one - and you see some jittery dude walking around decked out in NC State gear and looking/acting a little too much like this for a random Saturday morning toddler birthday party, I apologize in advance.
Just know it’s because I love NC State, and I love Emeka. And I
think know you should, too.