Honoring Super Mario

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Back in the spring NC State announced that they would honor the jerseys of Wolfpack legends Mario Williams and Russell Wilson.

The program honored Russell Wilson during halftime of the 2014 Kay Yow Spring Game, and announced this week that Mario Williams would have his number honored during the season opener against Georgia Southern.

"I am very appreciative that NC State has decided to honor me, and it will be very special to see my name in Carter-Finley Stadium," Williams said back in the spring. "It's a special place, and I will always call it home."

Williams is the only player in ACC history to be selected as the first pick in the NFL draft, as he was taken as No. 1 by the Houston Texans in 2006. He was named a first-team All-American by Sports Illustrated in 2005 and was a second-team choice by Walter Camp after setting the State single-season tackles for loss (27.5) and sacks (14.5) records. A two-time All-ACC performer, he also holds the school career records in both categories.

Although his pro career has taken him to Houston and Buffalo, Williams remains around Raleigh, NC State, and the football program. Head coach Dave Doeren praised the loyalty "Super Mario" has shown to the program.

"[He's a] great Wolfpacker," said Doren. "[He shows] tremendous loyalty to the program and city of Raleigh for making this his home away from home when he's not in the NFL.

"I just love how humble he is and how he treats people. He's a great role model for our players and for young players coming up for how to act and how to treat people when you come home."

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Williams has recorded 76.5 career sacks in his NFL career. He is coming off a Pro Bowl season with the Buffalo Bills, as he totaled 38 tackles, a forced fumble, 4 passes defended, and 13 sacks in 16 starts.

On September 15, 2013, Mario had 4.5 sacks in a win against the Carolina Panthers, breaking the team record for the most sacks in a game.

Williams signed a six-year, $96 million dollar contract with the Bills in 2012. The deal included $50 million in guaranteed money, which is still the highest total ever given to a defensive player in the National Football League.

Mario, who has already made nearly $100 million dollars in his pro career, could still earn another $58 million over the remainder of his contract with the Bills.

"The guy has unlimited money and cars and houses," said Doeren. "But, when you get around him this is a guy who loves NC State and loves playing defensive line.

"He's a great representative of what we're all about here."

NC State is honoring Williams because of his success on the field. The team will hang a Williams banner in Carter-Finley Stadium but won't retire his No. 9 like they did prior Wolfpack legends who have been honored.

Instead, the number will be worn by a select few defensive linemen moving forward, the same for Wilson's No. 16 at the quarterback position.

"The thought of honoring the number is whoever wears No. 16 or No. 9 going forward are guys that represent that number the way they would want it represented," said Doeren. "We're not there yet. we feel like when we get there we'll put [players] in those jerseys.

Senior safety Jarvis Byrd had been No. 9 and freshman cornerback Malcolm Means was No. 16, but they are now wearing No. 1 and No. 14 respectively.

"I didn't want someone who doesn't play d-line wearing Mario's number," Doeren added. "That's kind of where we were going in.

"Eventually we're hoping one of our d-linemen will be in that number, and quarterback down the line will be in 16."

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