Is it true that NC State was your only high-major offer when you were being recruited out of High Point (NC) Andrews High School in 1974-1975?
I was considered to be too small by a lot of schools. I was about 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds... they didn't think I was big enough.
Really, I was only recruited by a couple of other schools. One was Appalachian and the other was East Carolina, but [NC] State was the biggest of the schools, a big program.
I told myself that if I was going to make it in college it was going to be at a big school and that's a big reason why I picked State.
From listening to coaches and teammates describe you as a tailback, they talked about your vision and reliability as being your biggest strengths. What do you think made you a great tailback?
I had God-given talent, and I had the lower body to run the football. Most people get their power and drive from their legs, and I had really strong legs. I wasn't the strongest guy up top, but I worked on my legs and really worked on my balance. I tried to run behind my pads and keep my feet under me.
Also, it was always hard to get a clean hit on me. I knew that as a running back most would try to hit me low, and I learned to give with the blow. It was almost like catching a baseball. You don't stick your hand out to catch, you let it come to the glove. That's how I tried to take hits... when the defender would get to me I would try to brace for the hit and keep going.
So for me, I believed my balance was one of my biggest strengths, along with my leg-drive.
Lou Holtz was the head coach at NC State when you were being recruited. Do you remember his recruiting pitch to you?
[Laughing] Coach Holtz came in my living room and said that he didn't like to play freshmen, that was his pitch. Coach Holtz said he didn't like to play freshmen because they make a lot of mistakes and a lot of times they aren't ready. Remember, back then we had a junior varsity team, and a lot of times that is where freshmen ended up starting out.
But, he did say that he would give me every opportunity to earn the playing time that I wanted. He said what I do with that opportunity would be up to me.
In reading up on your freshman year, it seems like it took a few games to get that opportunity.
In the beginning I was feeling like they may not give me that opportunity. I didn't get it in the first four games, but I remember my teammates just telling me to stick with it... hang in there.
NC State was 2-2 after four games in 1975. They just had a bad loss at Michigan State, and you were coming off a big performance against Chowan for the JV team. What did coach Holtz say to you?
I remember coach Holtz saying that if he was going to lose, he was going to lose with a freshman in the lineup. [Laughing] You can say the rest is history.
The next week you rushed for over 100 yards against Indiana, would lead the Pack to a bowl appearance, and earn ACC Rookie of the Year honors, the first of many major awards for you.
You are the only player to be named first-team All-ACC four times, which is a big accomplishment. But, perhaps the biggest is you still hold the ACC career rushing record after 30+ seasons.
What does that mean to you?
It's amazing that rushing record still stands. It makes it even more special based on the fact that a lot of the players today get to used their bowl numbers and they played more games now than back when I played. My first year I only played eight games... we only played 11 or 12 back then and couldn't include our bowl yardage.
I would have thought, with the run-and-shoot offenses, the 2000-yard rushers, and the way they can get all the backs on the edges it would be broken by now, but I do understand that kids now will leave early for the NFL. I don't recall anyone doing that when I played, that just didn't happen unless you had to leave, so we stayed four years.
I believe the kid from Boston College could have broken it if he didn't transfer, but, no matter how you cut it or how you say it, it's still a little bit unbelievable that it's still standing today. I really thought it would have been broken by now.
For you, what was your most memorable performance at NC State?
I always tell people that going into Clemson [in 1975] and winning the way we did that year sticks out to me the most. They have the Tiger Paws leading up to the stadium, a sea of orange... it's what college football is all about.
For us to go down there and beat them [45-7], and I think I had maybe 225 yards and four touchdowns... that was great. It was a great, great thing that happened. We didn't have that many fans down there, they had all the tickets. We were basically down there just with our team and a few alumni and it was just us against them. It was deafening.
Away from football, how would you sum up your four years at NC State?
It was the best time of my life. That's the best way I can sum up my time at NC State. The friends I made and the guys I played with... all special. It was the most enjoyable time of my life.
I told my son, I tell everybody, to go and have that college experience... the bonds that you can develop are really special. I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.
I went there a boy and left a man.