Lining the wire fence that encloses N.C. State’s football practice fields in Raleigh, N.C. is a long row of trees and bushes. On the other side of the fence, is a small incline leading down to freshly cut grass where the Pack practices.
If you happen to be driving around the PNC Arena or around that area for whatever reason, you can catch a glimpse of the coach’s tower, and maybe some practice jerseys and football shouts if you’re lucky.
But, there’s one tree that lines the wire fence that’s not like the others. It’s the mecca of all hiding spots. It’s so perfect, it’s like the tree’s branches were purposefully cut off at the bottom so as to carve out a little niche of space facing the practice fields. The tree is right in the middle, so you have a perfect view of all angles on the field. There’s also some shrubbery that sits in front of the tree behind the fence, so a 14/15-year-old girl can hide in the tree that’s behind the overgrown grass and not be seen as her eyes scan the field.
During the hot summer days intensified by the Carolina humidity, I would act like I was going for a run around the PNC Arena. I would run back and forth along the paved road a few yards away from the bushes and trees that lined the wire fence of the practice field, until I figured the timing was just right. When I thought the camera man atop the tower wasn’t looking or there were no cars coming, I’d make my dash into my perfect hiding spot inside the tree, complete with dirt to sit on and granddaddy long-legs to brush away (I hope DY doesn’t see this…)
I’d take out my notebook and pencil and start writing what I saw. It was basic at first, like “Willie Young had two sacks,” or “Anthony Hill is the team’s best tight end,” but as time went on, I got better at watching and knowing what to look for.
Sometimes the practices would be open to the media, so there would be reporters there, standing on the pavement near the entrance. I wasn’t jealous of them, hey, I was sitting in dirt even closer to the action.
I was raised on N.C. State everything. Which means I asked for and received subscriptions to Pack Pride for Christmas.
I would take notes, and then go home and compare mine to the ones on Pack Pride and talk about it with my dad. Highlight of my summer.
Well, summer camp rolled around the next year, so that meant new faces for me to learn before I could nonchalantly run to my hiding spot to watch rising high school juniors and seniors.
So, I was watching camp in 2007, observing new head coach Tom O’Brien’s straw hat, crossed arms, and serious demeanor. But that day was different. There was one guy that completely stood out above the rest in every drill and every skelly snap. I figured he was a four-star guy with an impressive offer list. He was fast, physical, instinctive, and he didn’t hold back. He was dominating every 1-on-1 play, around the ball on every snap, whether as a running back, wide receiver, or corner, and he was turning more heads than just the girl who was hiding in the trees. He was easy to keep an eye on because he had short dreads coming out of his helmet.
Well, I went home after camp and talked about it with my dad. I didn’t know who this guy was because he wasn’t a highly touted one that was previewed on the message boards. I came to realize I might not ever find out who he was.
The next day I log into Pack Pride and find out N.C. State has not only offered one of their campers, but he committed on the spot. And his name was Earl Wolff. I saw his picture on the front page, and I knew that was him.
He was so off the radar that his first story in the Scout archive came only after he was offered and committed. It was written by Pack Pride’s publisher, James Henderson, and titled: “In-State Sleeper Commits to Pack.”
Wolff said in the article:
“I always liked the school. My last name is Wolff, and they are the Wolfpack… it all makes sense.”
Well, it didn’t make sense to me.
First offer? No stars? I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t a professional scout at the time, and that’s still not the case, but I knew enough to realize this kid was going to be a great player.
Earl Wolff, who had only generated any real interest from East Carolina up to that point, hailed from Raeford, North Carolina and attended Hoke County High School.
Well, from then on, Wolff was my favorite player. He was part of a class that I could tell you most anything about. Manning, Glennon, Barnes, Wolff, at that point, the sky was the limit for Tom O’Brien.
Wolff started four games as redshirt freshman, and he earned the starting spot at safety as a sophomore. That year he won the team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Back award. Flash forward to his senior season, Wolff took home first-team All-ACC honors and finished with 119 tackles.
I loved watching football before I saw Earl at camp. I loved watching athletes succeed before that day, too. But that day, I realized I wanted to be a sports reporter. I wanted to find guys like that, under-the-radar guys, write about them and watch them climb the ranks and earn recognition.
That’s why I like recruiting. It’s a process and a progression. I like any process, mine or someone else’s. From getting that first offer, to taking visits, building relationships, committing, and signing, it’s fulfilling to follow someone’s dream, but especially a young person’s. And, the best part about all of that? It’s only the beginning of their careers. But, if you know where someone comes from, you already know where they’re headed before they get there. I knew Earl was destined for something better than an in-state sleeper, and not just because of his play at camp that day, but because I came to hear about his humble Hoke County roots, the discipline instilled in him at a young age by his mother who is in the military, and of course his wide, easy-coming smile.
At ACC media days in Greensboro, N.C. last summer, I got to interview Earl. I asked him about that day when he was offered by State at camp, and he laughed and said, “Back then, I didn’t know anything about football, all I did was play the game. I didn’t know what cover the deep post was or even cover the flats. It’s a blessing to be here and learn everything I’ve learned.”
Charismatic and appreciative. He knows the world owes him nothing, and he’s embraced it. That’s how he’s got where he is today.
Tomorrow he will celebrate with friends and family as his name is called in the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s risen in the ranks, according to the draft experts. He’s now considered a top ten or top five safety in a draft with a lot of defensive back talent. He’s increased his stock in combines, workouts, and interviews.
But, that doesn’t surprise me.
From watching the in-state sleeper from inside a tree, to listening to him preview the NFL draft on the David Glenn Show, Earl has made it. Still humble, still gracious and still hard-working, his process is almost complete.
Indianapolis: Home of NASCAR’s biggest, Peyton Manning’s memories, the Sweet 16, and now, me.
This past year has been an adventure that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve studied in Italy, waitressed by the North Carolina coast, finished my last semester at Clemson, moved back to where it all started (Raleigh), and tomorrow, I’ll load the trailblazer and move to Indianapolis.
What a year it’s been! Thankful for everything I’ve been able to experience and the people that I’ve met the in past 12 months. Equally thankful for those who have always been a sturdy fixture in my life since I can remember.
Those who gave advice, paid tuition (Mom & Dad), had patience, listened, provided competition, brought me laughter, pushed me past my limits, sacrificed, and took chances on a now 22-year-old, soon-to-be-leaving Carolina girl, are some of the people I’ll never be able to repay. From a cab driver in Miami to a priest in Milan, the list is endless.
And, that, I’ve learned, is what life is all about.
“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” - John Wooden
CATCH YA IN THE MIDWEST!
My grandfather was hospitalized at Durham Regional this week after he had a stroke. Combined with his preconditioned dementia, Ganddaddy will be seeing Heaven soon. But, last night my brother and I went to visit him. I brought Jimmy V’s autobiography: “Valvano: They gave me a lifetime contract, and then they declared me dead” to read because he hadn’t been able to speak the past few days, but he could hear. His eyes were closed the entire time and he was falling in and out of sleep, but naturally, as a I sat on a chair next to his hospital bed, I read from the “Survive and Advance” chapter.
My heart went into my throat as Whittenburg barely controlled, searched for the basket and the clock at the same time and hurled up his final 30-footer. The amazing irony was that Charles, on the opposite side of the basket, saw the ball falling short, and Olajuwon, in textbook rebounding position facting the basket, did not. Akeem never jumped. Lorenzo did, grabbed the ball with both hands and smashed it home. North Carolina State had won the national championship!
Except Ganddaddy stopped me right before I finished. His words - “He dropped that ball right down there.” Yes, yes he did.
Thanks, Jimmy V!!!!
Today in 1941 Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. 2,402 Americans were killed. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged and four were sunk. The following day America declared war on Japan.
This past February on a beautiful Tuscan hill in the countryside, all was quiet and serene. Thousands of miles away from home, I have never felt more proud to be American. That day I took the bus a few miles outside the city to Florence’s US WWII Memorial, where 4,402 fallen American men who died fighting in Italy were buried. Some of their families will never get to visit them abroad where they lay, but they can trust they rest in a beautiful home.
The rows of white crosses and six-pointed stars stood out against the green grass and rolling hills. The branches were wintry and stoic, but the emotion of standing there looking up at the American flag waving on foreign land was heartfelt.
Most of those buried here are from the Fifth Army who died in the fighting that followed the capture of Rome in June 1944 as troops continued North to the Po.
I stayed there a few hours walking up and down the rows, reading the names on the crosses.
There was a chapel on top of the hill and stone columns that told the brave story of the American soldiers.
I have always been patriotic and appreciative of this country, I was raised that way, but it really takes leaving something or somewhere to know how blessed you truly are. Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII and this semester I became certified to interview WWII veterans for the Library of Congress. The stories I heard from veterans in upstate South Carolina will remain in my mind forever. They didn’t mind leaving their families and everything they were familiar with for something they felt so passionate about, so called to do… To quote 101-year old Navy veteran Carl Weisenberg, “We were so mad. We were so mad. How could they do this to us? We wanted to kill every single one of them.”
If you ever visit Florence, take a few hours to visit this place and you will be thankful and touched you did. Traveling from the city, the SITA bus that stops at the cemetery is on the Via Cassia line. Tell the driver you wish to stop there; these buses don’t stop at every little stop unless you ask them to. When you leave, the bus will stop at the other cemetery entrance, about 100 yards past where it dropped you off. Be on the other side of the street, and wave your hand when you see the bus coming, so he knows to stop.
“Their bodies are buried in peace, their name liveth evermore…”
The idea that college football and basketball players should receive anything other than a free education amuses me.
This is not an argument about having respect for college athletes and what they do for universities. I look up to athletes so much for what they achieve on the field. That’s why my dream is to make a living reporting on their accomplishments. My life is dedicated to sports.
However, at the risk of sounding stereotypical, many college football players don’t know the difference between “there” and “their.” Seriously. I have classes with them. Without football, they would not be going to college. Or at least not at an institution of the academic caliber at which they are currently enrolled.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas is one of the biggest advocates of allowing college athletes to take advantage of the free market. Follow him on Twitter. His argument is that the Olympic model should apply in college athletics. So, for example, Alabama running back Trent Richardson should be allowed to endorse Nike. Bilas has it right that the money shouldn’t come from the college institutions themselves. He says a student on scholarship for music would still be allowed to sign a contract to endorse a product. Why not an athlete? The number of musicians in college endorsing products compared to how many athletes would if given the opportunity isn’t comparable.
If Trent Richardson wants to endorse Nike, let him. Just don’t give him a free education too.
If you want to “get money” right out of high school, there’s other ways than going to college first in order to turn professional. You can sit three years if you’re a football player, and then get an agent. You don’t have to go to school. I think the NBA should let kids come to the league whenever they graduate high school if they so choose. But, I’m not part of the NBA. And the NBA is a business, so they should do whatever they feel is in the best interest of their business. If you really want money that badly, you can get a job. Live at home. Spend the time that you’re not working your job, by working out, preparing for the draft. There’s nobody stopping you. There’s nobody making you get a college education.
Eating at the State Club in Raleigh the other night, this man in the Wolfpack Club (North Carolina State University’s Student Aid Association) tried to tell me that a lot of these kids don’t even have enough money to do laundry, buy a pizza, or take their girlfriend to a movie on the weekends. So why not give them each $100 a month? My response? Absolutely not. They are getting a free education, a free place to live, and a free meal plan.
These guys are incredibly talented. I live to watch them on the field and on the court. They play with passion and heart, and they are unbelievably dedicated. They wake up at 6 a.m., go to workouts, go to class, answer questions from the media. They go to practice, and then go study. They can be ripped apart on message boards for throwing an interception but are expected to stay after practice to sign autographs. A lot of them are good students, and upstanding young men.
Giving them a free education is the answer. Giving them money on top of that is not.
What a guy. Clemson legend Danny Ford gives me a great interview sitting on his front porch rocker in Central, South Carolina. Afterwards, Coach drove away on his tractor to tend to a baby calf that had just been born the day before.
:09 Getting into coaching
1:50 Coming to Clemson from Alabama, VT
3:16 Coach Pell goes to Florida, being named interim coach
5:26 Gator Bowl ‘78
6:03 ‘79-‘80 seasons
7:10 National Championship season
8:02 How Coach ran practice
9:18 Makings of a head coach
11:45 ACC expansion
13:29 Playoff system
14:45 Thoughts on Clemson this year & tailgating
16:55 Stopping the triple option
18:00 Favorite Clemson traditions
21:23 Favorite players to coach
24:24 Discipline of players today and yesterday
30:28 Recruiting differences now and them
34:47 Recruiting grounds
35:56 Retiring in Clemson
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
Roommate in Italy from Boston visited this weekend. She’s such a big inspiration to me!
I’m working on an essay for COMM 495. Guidelines: (1) conceptualize connections between creativity, communication, and ethics, and (2) advocate for a way to people to respond to this conception… I chose recruiting. Here’s the final paragraph.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher once said honesty, time, and relationships are the most important items of recruiting. I argue the most important of those is honesty. The business of college football and basketball recruiting has reached new heights in recent years, and there is evidence to show its importance will continue to gain momentum in the future. Regulation is important for certain issues — and deregulation is just as important for others. Baucus, et al. points out taking risks is an inherent part of creativity. But, taking risks often has ethical repercussions. Ethics is a difficult concept to define, and there are often outlying virtuous exceptions to usually considered unethical tactics in recruiting. As a result, an emphasis on collective adherence to unwritten laws is honorable. Mere compliance within the boundaries of recruiting rules does not lend its hand to foolproof integrity, and if we want our student-athletes to learn more than what is taught on a football field, there must be a movement of ethical reform in recruiting.
Clemson 2013 target, Tramel Terry & a hostess on the sidelines before Clemson takes on Georgia Tech in Death Valley on October 6, 2012.
“Everything you do in life, you should be humble enough to prepare for.” - Blake Smith, Attorney
Blue & Green Diamond Condos, Collins Ave, Miami Beach
It’s a dreary Monday, so I’m naturally thinking where else (besides class) I’d like to be right now. These pictures (near and far) are some of the places I’ve been to in the past year, and they’re all my favorite places in the world to be. Traveling is addicting once you get started. Next I want to travel to Ireland, Salzberg, Paris, Budapest, and Istanbul.
Blue Ridge Mountains, NC
Bernina Express, St. Moritz, Switzerland
Vatican City, Italy
Holden Beach, NC
Anywhere with our smoker and pointer
On a Sea Hunt, USA
Florence American Cemetery (WWII memorial), Florence, Italy
In a press box, anywhere
Collins Ave, Miami, Florida
Kerr Lake, NC
Atlantic Waterway, NC
San Lorenzo Chapel, Florence, Italy
Holden Beach, NC
Piazza Michelangelo, Florence, Italy
Carter Finley, Raleigh, NC
Almalfi Coast, Italy
Angus Barn, Raleigh, NC
Lake Como, Italy
At home in Raleigh
Shell Drive, Holden Beach, NC