What has the offseason been like having won the conference championship last season? Do you get approached by people who want to have a conversation about it?
Of course. I don't know how many times I go to Wal-Mart or just out with my Wake Forest shirts on, and people are like, 'Do you play for Wake Forest Football?' When I tell them, 'Yes,' they tell me they have bought their season tickets and can't wait for the season to start. It's been great to see the town finally come around us the way they did this year. It's been a lot of fun.
You have really been the big men on campus for the last six months.
We have. It was a great year for Wake Forest. Men's baseball lost in the ACC Championship. Field hockey won the ACC Championship. Mens' soccer won the ACC Championship. We won the ACC Championship. It's been a great year for Wake Forest sports. Women's field hockey had a national championship loss. Women's soccer had the best year they've ever had.
Our sports have gotten a lot better. That is in spite of our [student body] size. People say we are too small to be successful, but when you get the right group in with great coaches, you can be successful. Our school has proven that.
Did you have any other scholarship offers out of high school?
Southern Miss, Rutgers, South Florida and Wake. I had great schools but none of those big-time schools like the traditional schools--Florida, Florida State, USC, Texas--none of those. I was just too small; I played tackle in high school. I hadn't played center until I got here.
There are a couple of new coaches at UNC and NC State. Last year you guys generated the most excitement. How can all of you generate more excitement in the state of North Carolina this year even though those programs have been down? How will the new coaches impact football in the state?
I think it is going to give those teams a new wind. It will give them another chance to come out and improve themselves and play hard for a new coach. I think they will make the new coaches welcome and play as hard as they can. I think it will be more exciting with the [increase in the level of] competition.
Can North Carolina schools be powerhouses in the ACC and get up to the level of the Florida schools?
I think they can. There are four great teams in North Carolina. Duke, even though they have had some down years, they have talent and a good coaching staff. They can be good [too].
Have you talked to any teammates about how many text messages they were getting during their recruitment?
I really haven't. I just heard about recently and about how big it has gotten. I think a lot of soccer teams do a lot of text messaging. I didn't know about the whole texting thing [during my recruitment]. I heard how somebody, I think it was Duke, types it into a computer and sends it to everybody or something. I've never heard of that before--it's crazy. I've never seen it first hand.
DeMario Pressley, NC State Senior Defensive Tackle
In previous seasons, one thing that has hurt this team was lack of discipline and those kinds of mistakes. Coach O'Brien has put an emphasis on punctuality. Do you think he is trying to instill some mental discipline?
That's just him, [but] he is really trying to get us to get rid of all the mental mistakes and to just learn how to play football without getting so down on yourself. Plus, he gives us the mindset that we are letting more than just him down if we mess up. It's the whole team we are letting down.
With that said, do you expect to see fewer penalties this year?
A whole lot [fewer].
Do you think the penalties bother him?
He makes it known. You can tell that he will get upset or mad if we get a pass interference in practice or get offsides or something.
Do you think he has united things [on the team]?
Yes. In practice we all do more things together. We pray--we pray a lot. That was always good. I feel the togetherness aspect has increased a lot.
Do you think the campus and the fans have united too?
Oh, yeah. I believe the fans love Coach O'Brien. I can tell… Fans on the street tell me they love him and they can't wait for the season to start.
That first meeting, you said it only lasted about five minutes. What did he talk about, what was his message?
He just said, 'Hey, we are going to win games, and I'm not going to take all the crap. You better go to class,' and that was pretty much it.
What was the reaction?
We all were like 'Oh. My. God.'
There is a perception from outside that a lot of crap was going on. Put that in perspective.
Not really. Nothing really was going on, but nobody really-- When Coach O'Brien came in and he gave us this new aspect: 'OK, we can't let this guy down. We don't have any time for crap,' because he will not play that.
Do you guys fear him?
Well, not really fear him. I fear him. (Grinning) I'm scared of him. I'm scared of him.
I just think most of the players do not want to let him down.