Wolfpack's concerns for Irving far outweigh football

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Having seen firsthand the damage done to his friend and teammate's car, NC State defensive end Willie Young said football was the last thing anyone in the Wolfpack's program was thinking about when they first learned of linebacker Nate Irving's devastating one-car wreck.

Irving is out indefinitely, and his absence means the Wolfpack will be without their top player on the roster and his leadership. They'll miss him during summer camp, but they have been more concerned about him than their season. Only recently have they begun to think how his absence might impact the team on the field.

"With Nate, I don't think so much about football," Young said. "For him to still be breathing is a blessing alone, just by itself. Most people I don't think would have survived that. You can't even imagine how someone survived an accident like that. It's something that happened you have no control over. I don't feel that we'll be set back by it. True enough, Nate had a major impact on the program, and I know right now we have someone that can come in and play up to that potential, but right now they're young. It's not that they're not capable, it's just that they're young and inexperienced. That's the biggest thing right now, inexperience. But we have young guys that right now are progressing as we speak."

Young said he talks to Irving every day, and "he's always been a fighter."

"If you could talk to him right now, you would think he's jumping on a trampoline or something," Young said. "I'm sure he's somewhere doing some cardio."

Running back Jamelle Eugene said the entire team was affected by Irving's crash, not just the defense.

"Nate's situation, from my personal standpoint, it was more a matter of, 'Is he all right?' We found out he was all right. Then it was, 'Is he going to be able to play again?' He's going to be able to play again. So I felt like, 'OK, he's all right, he's going to be able to do the thing he loves the most. How's his family doing?' They're cool-headed, and keeping him together to pull him through it and staying strong," Eugene said. "So now everything is intact. Now, football-wise, that's what comes last. How is the team going to be affected?

"We're going to take every game as it comes and be appreciative of being able to go out there and play football because we know Nate wishes he could be doing it. We've got young guys waking up like, 'Man, we can't rely on Nate.' So everybody has to elevate their level of play. If you thought you were working hard then, now you've got to work even harder. You're not going to replace a Nate Irving, but you can have everybody get a little bit better so that you can close the gap with missing Nate. With him probably going to be on the sideline, that's motivation for the team. He's going to be a big part of us having success."

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