I improved throughout the year, but I'm not anywhere near where I want to be or where I think I can be. I've only been playing tackle for a couple of seasons so I can keep getting better, keep improving.
It's about getting back to work and correcting things I need to fix.
You sort of came out of nowhere to be NC State's top defensive lineman and even earned some All-ACC honors. Do you believe you had a breakout year?
I don't really look at it like that. I just go out here with all these guys I love and play ball, have fun because I love the game.
It just so happens that I made some plays, but everybody was making plays, we won nine games last year. It was a combination of everyone we had playing well, and it helped us all improve.
How did it feel when things started rolling for the team last year? Expectations weren't that high, but you guys got hot early and won nine games.
Yep, I remember saying last year that I had never been a part of a team that was close like that. We've got it again this year, it's chemistry.
We all get along and we all come out here working to get better and accomplish a common goal.
You had a couple of off-the-field incidents earlier in your career. How much do you feel you have matured?
A lot. People that are close to me know how much I've grown up. When I got here I was young, stupid. I got into a little trouble there, but that is behind me.
It made me grow up a lot and may have been one of the best things that happened to me. I feel it made me a better person and is helping me grow into the type of person I want to be.
Throughout the process coach O'Brien seemed to stand by you and allow the situations to play out. Eventually all charges were dismissed. What did that mean to you, how he stood by you?
I'm very grateful, and I thank God for it. I'm lucky to be a part of this team and have a coach like him. Coach O'Brien, the whole coaching staff, they all stood by me. I knew they were there for me the whole way.
I was able to turn over a new leaf. Now I just get after it on the field even more because I realized that it could be taken away from me. You don't realize how important the game is to you until you feel that. You probably have heard that before, but it's the truth.
Who are your best friends on the team?
I would say Markus Kuhn and George Bryan.
What is it like lining up at defensive tackle with Kuhn, one of your best friends?
That's great because we are basically like brothers. We came to State together and have a great relationship.
The thing about playing the same position is we can tell each other anything. If we see one doing something wrong we can help each other and it not be a big deal. We know we're trying to make each other better.
You came to NC State as a linebacker, moved to defensive end, and went back to linebacker before settling in at defensive tackle. How do you like playing in the trenches?
I love it. I wish I had played here my whole life. It's fun. You get to hit someone every play, and you go 100 miles an hour. If you don't go 100 miles an hour you'll get put on your butt.
That's the type of football I like. I like being in there, in the action, trying to mess things all up.
You were also about 255 pounds when you enrolled and now you are nearly 300 pounds.
I feel good. I'm even faster than when I first got here, and that's through the strength and conditioning program that coach Rice puts us through. If you listen to him, that stuff works.
Have you been time recently?
Yes, my fastest time is 4.8 [in the 40-yard dash].
What expectations do you have for the defensive line?
We have a couple of gaps to fill with Natanu (Mageo) and all the seniors leaving, but guys are stepping up. That's what we need.
Older guys are pushing younger guys, and younger guys are pushing older guys. We're trying to feed off each other and create that bond.
Who are some of the younger guys on the defensive line that have caught your eye?
Art Norman... he's been pretty impressive. Also you have Theo [Rich] and Thomas Teal. They have bee doing some impressive stuff, stepping up to the plate.
What impresses you about Norman and Rich?
They are fast. Both of them are fast. When they come off the edge they are moving. There are just a couple of things, technique-wise, but they are going to be great players here.
They add a lot of speed off the edge for us.
With the experience returning on the defensive line and at linebacker and in the secondary, is it safe to say the defense could be a strength for the Wolfpack in 2011?
Definitely. In year's past we didn't know what was going to happen when the defense went out there, but we made big-time strides last year. Now we have confidence where when the offense turns it over we're telling them we'll get it back so be ready to get back out there.
They believe in us. We just feed off each other and know each side of the ball is going to get it done.
What is the mood of the team coming off a nine-win season?
Really after that bowl game, our confidence was sky high. Just coming off a win knowing that we were pretty good last year, and we can do it. If we work even harder, the sky is the limit as long as we keep pushing it.
What do you believe is the goal for NC State in 2011?
Obviously we want to win the ACC. That's our goal. If we do that then even bigger things can happen.
We need to get on a roll and play like we are capable of playing. After last year I think we all know we can do it because we were so close... we were right there.