"We've had significant injuries," said senior wideout Owen Spencer. "Injuries where it's like, come on, not him."
"The past few years, if you say injuries in college football you think about NC State," linebacker Nate Irving stated. "I don't think we've had one season where we've had everybody healthy. I don't think it will get to that, but the way we've been injured, it's just been crazy. It's like we've been cursed."
When asked about the rash of injuries during his time at NC State, head coach Tom O'Brien simply smiled and tried to joke about it.
"I've never had it [elsewhere] like we've had it," he said. "It owes me the other way, so I'm waiting for it."
It all started for the Wolfpack in 2007 when the initial depth chart didn't even include three potential starters, defensive tackle DeMario Pressley, tight end Anthony Hill, and fullback John Kane, because of injury. Hill would be out for the season, and Kane's career was over. In the season opener, starting tailback Toney Baker went down for the year with a knee injury.
By midseason, six other players on the opening depth chart had missed at least one game with an injury. Then Andre Brown went down... and Julian Williams... and LeRue Rumph... and Curtis Crouch... and Javon Walker... and James Martin. At the end of the year, the Pack was thin on both sides of the ball and struggled to a 5-7 record.
In 2008 O'Brien announced in the preseason that projected starting safety Clem Johnson was out indefinitely with a broken jaw, and Baker was sidelined again due to his lingering knee injury. Then potential star wideout Donald Bowens went down with a back injury that put him out for the year... all before the first game.
Even during the season stars Nate Irving, Russell Wilson, and Alan-Michael Cash missed multiple games with minor injuries. State was able to get the trio back on the field and made a late run to reach postseason play.
"When we're healthy we're a good team," said Spencer. "You saw that back in 2008 in the latter part of the season when we won four straight games and made it to a bowl game. We're just trying to get back to that."
Following that season most hoped the injury bug was over... but it wasn't. In the summer of 2009, Irving's junior season was over before it started due to injuries he sustained in a near-fatal automobile accident.
"It was nasty," Spencer said of Irving's wreck. "You take a huge truck and make it look like a small car. It was a blessing that he survived that crash, and that's big. Having him back is a blessing."
That was the beginning of a period that saw the Wolfpack lose scholarship players to injury at an alarming rate.
Entering the season finale against North Carolina, an astounding 16 players were on the sideline with injuries. The injured ranks included: Audi Augustin, DE; Mario Carter, TE; Ryan Cheek, LB; Mike Glennon, QB; Denzelle Good, OL; T.J. Graham, WR/RET; Steven Howard, WR; Nate Irving, LB; Colby Jackson, FB; R.J. Mattes, OG; DeAndre Morgan, CB; Everett Proctor, QB; Jeff Rieskamp, DE; Rashard Smith, CB; Javon Walker, S; James Washington, HB.
Even in the win over North Carolina the rash of injuries continued as starting linebacker Dwayne Maddox left with an ankle injury midway through the second quarter and starting cornerback Jarvis Byrd was sidelined with a knee injury early in the third period.
O'Brien admits that he and his staff have evaluated the entire program, hoping to find what has led to the injuries.
"We've spent a lot of time looking at not only the way we coach [but also] the way we practice, the way we train, and the way we treat [injuries]," he said. "We've gone through a pretty good analysis of that. If there was any one cause... but they are just all different things and things not caused by any one source one way or another."
Monday's announcement that sophomore cornerback Rashard Smith would miss the season with a knee injury led to Wolfpack fans feeling the curse could be continuing.
"We're still way ahead of where we were last year," said O'Brien. "Last year at this time we had Nate down, [Jeff] Rieskamp down for the year, and two guys who didn't come back... one was a starting corner. We're only down one this year going into camp so we're way ahead."
An inexperienced team, the Wolfpack must stay healthy if they are going to have any chance at reaching postseason play. NC State has just 14 scholarship seniors on the roster and four of them are specialists. Of the other 10, only six have spent their entire college careers at NC State, working in the offensive and defensive scheme.
"[Staying healthy] is something important that we have to do in order to win," said Spencer. "I think this is a team... we have the right leaders and right guys in position to surprise some people and hopefully make an ACC run.
"We've been plagued the past couple of years and any good team is a healthy team. You're putting your best players out there every game, and if we can catch a break from those we'll be fine."
If there is a silver lining to the injuries, it is that a bunch of State's young freshmen and sophomores have had to play early in their careers and gain some experience.
"Those young guys who have played, they've had a chance to grow together," Irving stated. "Now some of that inexperience before is going to be experience, and it will pay off for us right now. It should help us a lot."
"We had a lot of young guys making a lot of bad plays last year," said O'Brien. "But they are going to be older and better this year."