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November 24, 2010

Nate Irving's story impacting others

NC State fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving knows his story can save lives, and that is what he's thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Irving shot a 37-second public service announcement Tuesday on the dangers of driving drowsy for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The organization approached the sports information department for NC State, and Irving jumped at the chance to relay his own personal message.

Irving had his life almost end in the wee hours of June 28, 2009, when he was driving back to Raleigh from Wallace, N.C. His SUV hit two trees around 4:40 a.m., and he suffered a compound fracture of his left leg, along with a separated shoulder, collapsed lung and cracked ribs. Irving, who could have been a potential 2010 NFL Draft pick, was forced to miss the 2009 season instead and went through the mental and physically healing process.

"I went through something and I just wanted to share my story so I could help other people to avoid what I went through," said Irving, who had to shoot the commercial twice after the first one got accidentally erased. "It might help prevent that from happening to someone else."

Individuals and friends have come up to Irving in the past letting him know that they've thought twice about driving drowsy because of what he went through.

"I've had people come up and talk to me about it and I've shared my story with them," Irving said. "The one that has stood out the most is I met a little kid who was in a Go-Kart accident and he sustained a lot of injuries that were like mine. Just meeting with him and talking with him every now and then, I know I'm an inspiration for him."

Irving does his best to maker sure his inner circle of friends avoid driving drowsy whenever various situations come up.

"I just try to keep them off the road at late nights," said Irving, who got a tattoo with the date of his car accident. "I'll tell them, 'We can just go there in the morning, or lets just try and leave early.' I don't do so much driving like that."

Irving didn't have a class or football responsibility to rush back to Raleigh in the middle of the night. He just wanted to come back to his second home.

"Being young and thinking I was invincible and that it wouldn't happen to me, is just something that I had to go through," Irving said.

Irving and the Wolfpack football team will have its annual Thanksgiving meal at the Angus Barn restaurant. Giving thanks will take on a new meaning for Irving.

"[I'm thankful for] just to be here and have the opportunity to get a second chance at life and football," Irving said. "I'll just sit there and enjoy the moment. I just want to seize the moment and try and enjoy it as much as I can."

Sophomore safety Brandan Bishop said Irving's message off the field resonates around the team. He also has inspired the defense with his play this season.

"It was funny to see him on TV but it's a serious message, and I thought he did a good job," Irving said. "With his experience and what he's been through, I think he'd be a good candidate to be a part of that.

"Being from Florida, I've made some long drives a couple of times. It can get pretty boring and long. I usually try to pull over and get some rest, so a situation like that won't happen. It's pretty scary."

The 6-foot-1, 231-pound Irving has played as if he's near 100 percent healthy through 11 games for the Wolfpack. Irving has successfully made the move from weakside linebacker to the middle. The team captain leads the team with 89 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss, which ranks fourth in the country. He has 4.5 sacks, caused two fumbles and recovered one, and also has five quarterback pressures.

Irving's signature game came when he had 13 tackles, including an NCAA record eight tackles for loss, in the 38-3 win over Wake Forest on Nov. 13. He also had 16 tackles and two sacks in a win at Georgia Tech on Sept. 25, and 13 stops in the loss to Virginia Tech on Oct. 2.

"He's just been awesome," Bishop said. "To watch him just be a monster on the field is great."

Just as important to Irving, the team is winning. NCSU (8-3 overall, 5-2 ACC) plays at Maryland (7-4 overall, 4-3 ACC) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with the chance of clinching a spot to the ACC Championship game with a win over the Terrapins.

"It's a blessing to be here alive, let alone playing for the ACC title," Irving said. "Just to be here and able to participate with my football teammates and everything is a blessing.

"[Playing Maryland] is like very big. We would be the first team in 31 years [1979] to do what we have a chance to do so. We just have to take it one step at a time. At the same time, we know this is a big and important game."

Irving hasn't played against the Terrapins since the 37-0 loss his redshirt freshman year in 2007. He missed the 2008 meeting, a 27-24 Maryland victory, because of a high ankle sprain.

"They are going to try and be a physical team and establish the run, which will allow us to put a lot people in the box to stop the run," Irving said. "That will give him [Maryland redshirt freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien] the chance to throw the ball over our head. [O'Brien] is good. He's in there starting for a reason."

NC State is third in the country with 36 sacks and had seven sacks against North Carolina last Saturday. O'Brien has passed for 1,840 yards and 17 touchdowns, but doesn't take off and run too often. He has minus-39 rushing yards on 28 carries and a touchdown.

When asked if the 6-3, 215-pound O'Brien was mobile, Irving simply replied: "We are going to have to find out."

Irving's commercial is helping others find out more about his story, and in turn, possibly saving people's lives.

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Nate Irving video message on driving drowsy



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