Sweezy Happy to be Back

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The last few months have been tough for J.R. Sweezy. Off-the-field issues nearly ended the redshirt junior defensive tackle's promising college career.

The last few months have been tough for J.R. Sweezy. Off-the-field issues nearly ended the redshirt junior defensive tackle's promising college career.

It all started back in March when Sweezy was charged with misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor larceny after being accused of beating up a shuttle bus driver. NC State head coach Tom O'Brien suspended him indefinitely with the Wolfpack in the middle of spring practice.

A month later, Sweezy was in the news again when he and three of his teammates, defensive tackle Markus Kuhn, tight end George Bryan, and left tackle Jake Vermiglio, faced drug charges stemming from an incident that occured at their College Inn apartment.

Fans called for the players to be punished, some even suggesting that Sweezy be kicked off the team. However, coach O'Brien elected to fully evaluate the situations and let all the facts come out before making any personnel decisions. In June the assault and larceny charges were dismissed against Sweezy, and in late July the drug charges were dropped as well.

Sweezy, who was the only player publicly suspended by O'Brien, was reinstated and returned to practicing with his team.

"I praise God everyday," said Sweezy. "I get on my knees and thank him. I learned a lot from both of those situations... and grew up a lot. I've used it as a learning experience.

"I'm glad to be back out here. I'm getting back into things and I'm ready to go. I'm ready to get after it."

Completely focused on football, Sweezy is now ready to reach his potential. He enrolled at NC State in 2007 after a standout career as an outside linebacker for Mooresville (NC) High School. As a high school senior he tallied an amazing 195 tackles, six sacks, 14 tackles for loss and four fumble recoveries.

He began his career at linebacker in Raleigh, but at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds with a body that continued to add weight he eventually ended up on the defensive line. The staff worked with Sweezy some at defensive end and even moved him back to linebacker for a short period of time before allowing him to settle in at defensive tackle last fall. Checking in at over 290 pounds, Sweezy is pleased with the switch.

"It's been musical positions in a way," he said, laughing. "I've certainly been through some position changes here at State. I came in as a linebacker, played some defensive end, back to linebacker, now at defensive tackle... things like that. I've found my home now though. I like it at tackle."

"I think [Sweezy] has done a nice job," O'Brien said last Friday. "He's worked extremely hard. It's a position, it's about the third position we put him in, but it's one that actually he feels comfortable with.

"We feel his skills can help us best at that position. I don't think anybody has worked harder, once he was able to get back with us than he has, and it's shown."

Sweezy turned heads with his play in 2009 when he totaled 26 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks in a reserve role as a sophomore. Now he is being counted on to help replace both starters from last year's team.

"We've got some big shoes to fill," he said. "We had some good players leave, but everyone is stepping up. We're growing into those roles."

For NC State to take the next step as a program they need to have a solid 2010 season and a big factor in success is having every player focused on winning and contributing to the team. In an effort to build team chemistry, a few weeks back the Wolfpack coaches brought in some Marines and Navy Seals to put the players through several exercises where they had to work together and rely on each other.

"The first day we were in the swimming pool and had to do a lot of swimming drills," said Sweezy. "Some of the guys who couldn't swim were in the shallow end. Those that couldn't swim real well, the better swimmers had to help them cross the pool. If we couldn't get them across we had to start over... in a 15-foot deep pool.

"The drill I probably remember the most is the one where we had on long-sleeve shirts and had to exchange them in the pool. It was tough. Treading water while trying to take off a long-sleeve shirt and give it to a teammate was tough. A couple of times guys got tangled up and went under a few feet and someone had to come over and help them out. I'm telling you it wasn't easy."

Sweezy believes the team learned from the experience.

"It was a team-building thing," he said. "It taught us a lot. If one person messes up the entire team pays for it. The whole team suffers, but it's not that person's fault, it's our fault.

"We had to do everything right and everything as a team or we didn't move on to the next drill. I won't forget that."

The season opener is just days away, and the players are excited. Sweezy believes the defense is out to prove they are going to be much better this fall, which should lead to more wins for NC State.

"I think we're going to be good," he said. "I like the way we're flying around. We're laying some licks on people and making more plays."

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