The 2019 NFL Season starts tonight, and 20 former NC State Football players are on 53-man rosters at the start of the season.
Rookie Garrett Bradbury will jump right in as Minnesota’s starting Center, after the Vikings took him with the 18th overall pick this summer. Bradbury was a Consensus 1st Team All-American at NC State (8th ever) and the winner of the Rimington Trophy.
Jacoby Brissett is the starting quarterback in Indianapolis after the retirement of Andrew Luck. Brissett signed a $30 million extension this week. He is entering his 4th season in the NFL, after being drafted in the 3rd Round (91st overall) by the New England Patriots in 2016.
Bradley Chubb had a fantastic rookie season last year, and enters 2019 as a starting Outside Linebacker Denver again. In 2018, Chubb had the 7th most sacks by a rookie in NFL history (12 sacks/60 tackles), and earned All-Rookie team honors. He also enters Year 2 ranked as the #82 player in the league according to NFL.com’s Top-100.
AJ Cole wasn’t drafted this summer, but was invited to Rookie Camp by the Raiders, and eventually booted out a punter that was drafted last year, earning the starting job in Oakland.
Rookie Ryan Finley has earned the backup quarterback position behind Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, after being drafted in the 4th round (104th) by the Bengals this Summer. Finley was a 1st Team All-ACC selection in 2018, and solidified himself as one of the best quarterbacks in NC State history.
Quarterback Mike Glennon is entering his 7th season in the NFL, earning the backup role in Oakland behind Derek Carr. Glennon was drafted by Bucs in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Besides Philip Rivers, Glennon is the only other Quarterback in NC State history to pass for over 4,000 yards in a single season, and is the only one to throw for over 30 touchdowns in 2 seasons.
Rookie Kelvin Harmon is a 2nd string Wide Receiver for Washington heading into Week 1. The Redskins drafted Harmon in the 6th round (206th) this summer. Harmon earned 1st Team All-ACC honors last year, crossing the 1,000-yard barrier two years in a row, ultimately finishing his career as one of the best to play the position in Raleigh.
Place Kicker Stephen Hauschka is entering his 12th year in the NFL, and his 3rd as the starter in Buffalo. The Bills recently signed him to a 2-year extension. Hauschka is the 7th most accurate kicker in NFL history.
Nyheim Hines enters his second year in the NFL as the backup running back in Indianapolis behind Marlon Mack. Hines played in all 16 games last season (starting 4), rushing for 314 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as catching 63 passes for 425 yards and 2 touchdowns. His 63 receptions were the 3rd most by a rookie in Colts history, and the 10th most in NFL history by a Running Back. The Colts drafted Hines in the 4th round (104th) last summer after earning 1st Team All-ACC honors, and is one of only 10 players in NC State history to rush for over 1,000 yards.
BJ Hill enters Year 2 as a starting Defensive End with the Giants once again. In Year 1, Hill had 39 tackles and 5.5 sacks, setting a record in New York for sacks by a rookie. The Giants drafted Hill in the 3rd round (69th) last summer.
Justin Jones served as a backup last season, but enters Year 2 as the starting Defensive Tackle for the Chargers. Jones had 17 tackles in 15 games last season. Los Angeles drafted Jones in the 3rd Round (84th) last Summer.
Ted Larsen started 13 games in Miami last year, but enters 2019 as the backup at both Center and Right Guard in Chicago. Larsen is entering his 10th NFL season, and has started 86 games. This is his second stint in Chicago (2016). Larsen was drafted by the Patriots in 2010 the 6th Round (205th).
Rookie Wide Receiver Jakobi Meyers went undrafted earlier this year, but was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots, ultimately making the 53-man roster. Meyers led the NFL in receiving yards and receptions this preseason. He is listed as a 3rd string receiver behind Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon. In 2018, Meyers became only the 5th reciver in NC State history to cross 1,000 yards receiving. He also broke Torry Holt’s single season record for receptions.
Rookie Linebacker Germaine Pratt has made quite an impression this preseason, entering Week 2 as the backup at all three linebacker positions for the Bengals. Cincinnati drafted Pratt in the 3rd Round (72nd) this year. Pratt was a 1st Team All-ACC selection in 2018.
Will Richardson didn’t play a single game as a Rookie last year, but he enters Week 1 as the Co-Starter at Right Guard with A.J. Cann for the Jaguars. For perspective, Cann has started 60 games in his career. Jacksonville drafted Richardson in the 4th Round of the 2018 NFL Draft (129th). Richardson was a 2nd Team All-ACC selection in 2017 at NC State.
Quarterback Philip Rivers is entering his 16th season in the NFL (all with the Chargers), where he has started every single game since 2006 for the Chargers. Last season Rivers’ QB Rating was 105.5 and threw the ball at a 68.5% clip, both tied for the second best of his career. He is an 8 time Pro-Bowler, and a former ACC Player of the Year at NC State.
Jaylen Samuels is entering his 2nd season, after rushing for 256 yards (4.6 yards per carry), along with 26 receptions for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Steelers in Year 1. Jay Sam is James Conner’s backup, but is expected to have a more significant and versatile role this season, with former NC State Tight Ends/Special Teams Coach Eddie Faulkner serving as Pittsburgh’s new Running Back’s coach. In 2017, Samuels earned 1st Team All-ACC at NC State, and was selected by the Steelers in the 5th round (165th) of the 2018 Draft.
J.R. Sweezy is entering his 8th season, this year as the starting Right Guard for the Arizona Cardinals. Sweezy has practically started every single game he’s played over the past 5 seasons he has played, starting 78 of the 88 games he’s played in his career. Pretty impressive, when you think about the fact he was drafted in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks (225th overall), and that he didn’t play Offensive Line a single game at NC State.
Left Guard Joe Thuney has started every single game for the Patriots since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He was an All-American Left Tackle at NC State his Senior season.
Quarterback Russell Wilson arguably had the best year of his career in 2018, posting a QB Rating of 110.9 (Career Best, throwing 35 touchdowns (Career Best), while only throwing 7 interceptions (Career Low). Wilson is entering his 8th season in Seattle, and has started every single game since being drafted by the Seahawks in the 3rd round of the 2012 Draft (75th). He is a 6-time Pro Bowler, and just signed a 4-year $140 million contract extension this offseason. He earned 2nd Team All-ACC honors at NC State in 2017.
Defensive End Kentavius Street (49ers) and Running Back Matt Dayes (Saints) are on the Injured Reserve, and Offensive Lineman Tyler Jones is on the Broncos Practice Squad.
Terquavion Smith is a Top-10 Scorer in the NBA G-League
Former Wolfpack scoring guard, Terquavion Smith is going off in the NBA-G League, and is now the 9th best scorer in the NBA G-League.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) November 26, 2023
He’s averaging 24ppg, shooting 40% from the floor and 37% from long range. He’s also adding 5 rebounds and 2 assists per game. But putting the stats aside, his performances have been electric.
Terq Smith with the hammer SLAM. pic.twitter.com/lglY7PHGOk
— Delaware Blue Coats (@blue_coats) November 26, 2023
His team, the Blue Coats, are an affiliate of the 76ers. The Sixers are being led by Joel Embid (their center), their PG Tyrese Maxey, and PF Tobias Harris. Smith is a SG, and honestly, I think there’s a shot he gets his chance at some point this season. Kelly Oubre Jr has been out with a broken rib, and his replacement, De’Anthony Melton is doing alright, but his stats aren’t all that different than Terquavion’s.
Melton is averaging 12 points per game, shooting 40% from the floor and 40% from 3pt range. He’s adding 4 rebound and 4 assists.
Smith is the more explosive player, but it’s likely the 76ers want to see a little more offensive efficiency before they start thinking about moving him up.
Former NC State SS Trea Turner Set Phillies’ Record in NLDS
Former NC State All-American Shortstop Trea Turner set a Phillies’ postseason record, collecting 4 hits in Philly’s Game 4 3-1 victory over the Braves. The Phillies first went to the playoffs in 1908, and Turner is the first player to ever have 4 hits in one game.
Turner was 4-4, and was a triple shy of the cycle.
Most people will remember Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos from the NLDS, but it’s Turner that’s slashing 500/.539/.942 in the 2023 playoffs thus far.
Trea Turner gives the Phillies the lead in the 5th inning! pic.twitter.com/x6ExY5XmYp
— Phillies Tailgate (@PhilsTailgate) October 13, 2023
Trea Turner joins the homer party! pic.twitter.com/q3SHTEJ9Lw
— Phillies Tailgate (@PhilsTailgate) October 11, 2023
Trea Turner is worth every damn penny. pic.twitter.com/OyDKWosJRS
— Phillies Tailgate (@PhilsTailgate) October 8, 2023
MLB 2023 Season PackPros Roundup
Five former NC State baseball players played in the Major Leagues in 2023. Here’s a roundup of how it went for the four of them.
Shortstop Trea Turner signed an 11-year $300 million contract with Philadelphia heading into the 2023 season. Turner was coming off of his 2nd All-Star game appearance. 2023 was a little bit of a mixed bag for Turner. Through much of the season, the Phillies looked like they had made a terrible investment in Turner, but he finished the season extremely well. He finished his first season in Philly with a batting average of .266, which is the lowest of his career, if you don’t count the .225 he batted in his first year in the MLB, batting .225 in only 27 games. With that being said, his 26 home runs were the 2nd most of his career, and he stole 30 bases for the first time since 2021. Turner’s 102 Runs ranked 10th in the National League, and his 30 Stolen Bases ranked 9th.
Turner was taken with the 13th overall pick in 2014.
Carlos Rodon’s first year in New York was his worst season in the MLB to date. After signing a 6-year $162 million with the Yankees in the offseason, expectations were high for what Rodon would bring to the Yankees. He was coming off of back-to-back All-Star seasons in Chicago and San Francisco. Injury has plagued Rodon at times throughout his career, and the injury bug struck three times this season. As a result, Rodon only started 14 games. He finished the season with a 3-8 record, and a outrageous 6.85 ERA.
Rodon was taken with the 3rd overall pick in 2014.
Catcher Patrick Bailey made his MLB debut this season. He was called up from Triple A to the Giants on May 19. While Bailey’s offensive numbers won’t ‘wow’ you, he was one of the best fielding catchers in all of the MLB this year. In 97 games, Bailey posted a .233 batting average, with 7 HRs and 48 RBI. In fielding, Bailey was the best in the Majors in Framing, 2nd in Pop Time, and 2nd in Caught Stealing Above Average. He ranked 6th, throwing out 15 base stealers.
Bailey was taken with the 13th overall pick in 2020.
Catcher Andrew Knizner entered the year on thin ice with the St. Louis Cardinals organization and the fanbase, but by seasons end, he became a fan favorite. Despite the fact that he is behind starter Willson Contreras, Knizner played 70 games, and looked like a starting MLB catcher in many of them. Knizner finished with a career high in batting average (.241), Runs (30), 2B (11), HR (10), RBI (31), SLG (.424) and OPS (.712). Technically Knizner doesn’t become an undrafted free agent until 2026, signing a 1-year $1.1 million contract in arbitration prior to the season.
Knizner was taken in the 7th round in 2016.
Pitcher Evan Justice was called up to the Colorado Rockies for a brief stint in his first season of professional baseball. Things didn’t go well after the call up, posting an 8.59 ERA in 9 appearances, striking out 7 batters in 7.1 innings. As a result, he was optioned back down to Triple-A. In 2023, Justice pitched in A, AA, AAA and the majors. In the minors, he had an impressive 6-1 record with a 3.49 ERA, striking out an impressive 63 batters in 38.2 innings. Opponents batting average against him was a putrid .131, and his WHIP was 1.11.
Justice was taken in the 5th round in 2021.
PI EXCLUSIVE: AJ Cole Shares His NC State Story
Former NC State Punter A.J. Cole is now a Pro Bowl Punter for the Las Vegas Raiders. Cole averaged 42.2 yards per punt while serving as the Wolfpack’s punter, which ranks 4th in school history. Since going undrafted in 2019, Cole was signed as a free agent by the Raiders, and he’s been their starter ever since. Cole was named to the Pro Bowl in 2021 and 2022, and earned 1st Team All Pro honors in 2021.
I caught up with Cole, and he shared how he ended up as the punter at NC State, what his time in Raleigh meant to him, how being a Wolfpack football player prepared him for the NFL, what it’s like to play with and against former teammates, and what NC State means to him today.
I’ll let him share his story in his own words.
“I went to the NC State camp in the summer going into my Senior year. They were looking to scholarship a punter. I had started punting in December, right after my Junior season ended, so I was still super raw. The coach that was running the camp set up a competition for Coach Doeren to watch the Punters. To qualify for the competition, you had 2 chances to hit a 38-yard punt with 3.8 seconds of hang time, which is not that hard. I was pretty nervous though, and shanked my 2 qualifying punts. So they eliminated everyone that didn’t qualify and brought up the guys that were going to kick in front of Coach Doeren. Well, the coach running the camp yells at me to ‘come over,’ and I told him I didn’t qualify. He said “You sure? I’m pretty sure you did. Hop in the line.” So I hopped in the line, and kicked really well. Coach Doeren brought me up to his office after the camp, and offered me a scholarship on the spot
It was pretty funny though, because I had never punted in a game before. So when I got home, they asked me for my hudl highlight tape, so they could watch it as a staff, and I had to tell them I had never punted in a game before, but I’d send them my tape after a couple games.
My experience at NC State was incredible. The biggest thing I always tell people about State is the people are great. From teammates, to coaches, to professors, to the other students, I really just enjoyed the kind of person that NC State attracts. I had a chance to pursue 2 dreams while I was there. I got to chase an engineering degree and play football. Obviously, I’m doing the football thing right now, but if that hadn’t worked out, my NC State degree would have served me well. Raleigh, North Carolina means a lot to me, and it really helped shape me into the man I am.
I feel like NC State prepared me well for the NFL. Being in a consistently competitive environment in the ACC definitely helped adjusting to the level of competition in the league. The facilities are world class, and the strength and conditioning program helped me make some super crucial changes to my body that allowed me to reach my potential.
Playing with Jakobi Meyers again has been awesome. It’s cool to play at this level with guys that you knew from college. We always talk about how the Pack is doing, and we do some reminiscing on the Raleigh days. There’s so many NC State guys in the league right now, it feels like every week I’m seeing an old teammate. That’s really special.
I absolutely still keep up with NC State. I watch all the games I can, and my friends from college are still my best friends.