Salahuddin: "It's About Finishing"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Linebacker M.J. Salahuddin spoke with Pack Pride about where he and the NC State defense stand going into upcoming 2014 football season, following a valuable spring.

NC State junior linebacker M.J. Salahuddin believes he is seeing a significant level of improvement having now spent a year learning head coach Dave Doeren's football system.

"As a defense, we're becoming pretty consistent. We're making strides. I think we're way farther along than last year, so that's a positive."

The NC State coaching staff has previously stated that they feel the team has solidly progressed through the offseason to this point. For Salahuddin, there's one main thing that he believes keeps his own level of focus and success strong.

"It's just consistency," he said. "In the film room, doing what we've got to do to get better, learning everyday. I think we've done that throughout our practices."

What does M.J. thinks will help bring success within the core of Wolfpack linebackers?

"I think we're very athletic as a linebacker group, but to me it's just a mentality," he stated. "If you can play, you can play; it doesn't matter the size. You just need to come out here, listen to the coaches, and you play within the defense. You need to just do what you do; you need to play from within yourself. That's what I do well.

"I don't really focus on the size. I come out with heart everyday. That's what I'm focused on."

While the focus of a successful team is to press on forward to prepare for success and compete for greatness head-on, Salahuddin, as well as the rest of the football players and coaching staff, are conscious of where they've been, and they use the past football season to motivate their passion for greatness.

"We remember those three wins we had last year. We remember losing all those close games," said Salahuddin. "It's about finishing, and that's what we've been working on. We were in all of those games. We didn't finish well, and that's what we've worked on this spring. I think we've done a good job of that."

M.J. Salahuddin stated that a lot of the reason for the strength and prominence of the defense, as well as his own personal success, stems directly from the relationship and coaching from defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Dave Huxtable.

"I love (Coach Huxtable)," said Salahuddin. "[Our relationship has] definitely gotten better over the course of a year. He looks at me as a leader, and that's what I try to be for him. Everyday I'm spending extra time with him in the film room and meeting room, and we're just getting better together."

When asked about the young and distinguishable talent, two defensive Wolfpack players come to mind.

"I think as far as linebackers go, Jerod (Fernandez) has done a very good job coming in his first year of playing, and doing a lot of learning," said Salahuddin. "He didn't play within the system last year, but he's doing it now. He's picked up very well.

"At safety, I like my boy (Germaine) Pratt. He's impressed me a lot. He's got a few things to work on technique-wise. But as far his motivation and work ethic, I like the way he comes out."

Ultimately, for Salahuddin, his fellow teammates, and the coaching staff for NC State football, the mentality that needs to be had in order to be successful as a team is not just on game day. It's through the grind of an everyday, all-out effort to make the most out of each player, both on and off the field... or as Salahuddin puts it in his own words regarding his daily mindset for success:

"It's another day to get better."

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