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Pack in the Pros

PI EXCLUSIVE: AJ Cole Shares His NC State Story

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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.

Matthew is Publisher and Co-Owner of Pack Insider. He is also the Lead Pastor of The Point Church in Cary, NC.

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Pack in the Pros

NC State’s DJ Burns Has Lost 45 Pounds In Preparation for the NBA Draft

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NC State’s DJ Burns has lost 45 pound over the past 6 weeks in preparation for the 2024 NBA Draft, and he wants to make sure people know he didn’t need Ozempic to do it. Burns has been working out 4 days a week at 5am.

Recently, Burns had a predraft workout with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Former NC State Punter Trenton Gill Signs with Denver

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Former NC State Punter Trenton Gill has signed with the Denver Broncos after he was released by the Bears this offseason.

Gill was drafted by Chicago in the 7th round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and has averaged 46.1 yards per punt through his first two NFL seasons.

Heading into the 2024 season, Gill will compete with Riley Dixon for the starting Punter job. Dixon was the Broncos’ starter in 2023, averaging 46.3 yards per punt.

Gill’s career average of 45.8 yards per punt in college is the best in NC State history. In 2019, Gill averaged 47.6 yards per punt, which led the ACC, and earned him a spot on the All-ACC Third Team. In 2021, he was on the All-ACC 1st Team. All 3 of his seasons as NC State’s Punter rank in the Top-6 in school history for best punting average in a single season.

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Former NC State G Lorenzo Brown Named to All-EuroLeague 2nd Team

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Former NC State Guard Lorenzo Brown was named to the All-EuroLeague 2nd Team.

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Lorenzo Brown, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv

After injuries sapped Lorenzo Brown of his best form during the regular season, the Maccabi playmaker snapped back to health just in time and, as one of the stars of the postseason, has been recognized by the voters his second consecutive All-EuroLeague Team selection. Brown was the MVP of the Play-In Showdown after he erupted for 29 points on 7-for-8 three-point shooting – both Maccabi postseason records – plus 5 assists against Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz to send Maccabi to the playoffs. He then led the Israeli champs with 17.2 points and 5.8 assists for a PIR of 19.2 in the five-game series against Panathinaikos. Brown ranked third in scoring for the playoffs, with 17.2 points per game, and was third for the full season in assists with 6.1. (Link)

This is the 2nd time that Brown has earned All-EuroLeague status, earning 1st Team honors in 2022-23.

Brown plays for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv in Israel, and this was his 2nd season with the squad.

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NC State is Tied for the 2nd Most Defensive Tackles in the NFL

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ProFootballFocus released this infographic this week, revealing which College Football Teams had the most Defensive Tackles on NFL rosters, and NC State was tied for 2nd with 7.

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Defensive Tackles on NFL Rosters who Played at NC State

B.J. Hill – Bengals (2018-23) – Career Stats: 285 Tackles, 22 TFL’s and 20.5 Sacks
Justin Jones – Cardinals (2018-23) – Career Stats: 219 Tackles, 34 TFL’s and 12 Sacks
Alim McNeil – Lions (2021-23) – Career Stats: 112 Tackles, 15 TFL’s and 8 Sacks
Kentavius Street – Falcons (2019-23) – Career Stats: 89 Tackles, 17 TFL’s and 7.5 Sacks
T.Y. McGill – 49ers (2015-23) – Career Stats: 45 Tackles, 10 TFL’s and 5.5 Sacks
Larrell Murchison – Rams (2020-23) – Career Stats: 37 Tackles, 5 TFL’s and 2 Sacks
Cory Durden – Rams (2023) – Career Stats: 3 Tackles

All 7 of the above players played regular season games for an NFL team in 2023. We will have to see how many of the 7 make 53-man rosters this Fall.

Junior Wolfpack Nose Tackle Brandon Cleveland tweeted with confidence that he will be #8 sometime soon.

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