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September 7, 2012

Pack Pros: 19 Wolfpackers make final rosters

NFL rosters were trimmed to 53 players last Friday night, and all 19 former Wolfpack players who began the day with NFL clubs made their respective teams. That group includes 11 players who are currently listed atop depth charts on team's official websites, including a pair of rookies in Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson and offensive guard J.R. Sweezy.

Wilson combines with San Diego Chargers' standout Philip Rivers to make NC State one of just two schools to boast multiple starting NFL quarterbacks. Other starters include Tennessee Titans' offensive guard Leroy Harris, Seahawks' kicker Steven Hauschka, Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive guard Ted Larsen, Cincinnati Bengals' linebacker Manny Lawson, New York Giants' offensive tackle Sean Locklear, Detroit Lions' linebacker Stephen Tulloch, Buffalo Bills' defensive end Mario Williams and Arizona Cardinals' safety Adrian Wilson. Tulloch and Rivers were both named team captains for their clubs.

Of the school's 19 professional players, Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien coached eight for their entire NC State careers, mentored another pair for three years and also had running back Andre Brown for two seasons.

According to the Rivals.com recruiting rankings, six members of that group O'Brien coached now playing in the NFL were two-star recruits, while two were three-stars and a pair were four-stars. Steven Hauschka, who played for one year with the Pack after transferring from Middlebury College, was never in the Rivals' database.

Sweezy has been the latest revelation out of a strong rookie class, which boasted an impressive six NFL Draft picks that tied the school record set in 2006.

"When you put six guys in the NFL, and they all make NFL opening-day rosters, I think that says a lot about the coaches' evaluations and recruiting the right kids," O'Brien noted.

Sweezy, a college defensive tackle who has not set up on offensive line since he was an 8-year-old playing pee-wee football, was a seventh-round pick by the Seahawks, who immediately lined him up at offensive guard. He learned quickly and solidified his spot after he was given an opportunity with the first-team unit when incumbent right guard John Moffitt missed time following an elbow surgery.

"J.R.'s earned it," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told the team's official website. "He did it just the old-fashioned way of hard, tough, day-after-day ball. We saw glimpses right from the beginning, and couldn't believe that he would learn as he's learned, but he did.

"What we do get out of him is a very aggressive kid. He's really tough and he'll make plays. If you keep your eye on him, he's going to make plays knocking people and getting out on the perimeter and getting downfield because he runs so well and he's so athletic. And he's got this nature about hitting people that we just love."

NFL Wolfpack players
Played at NC State
Andre Brown
New York Giants
The Giants' fourth-string running back returned a pair of kickoffs for 29 yards in the season-opening loss to the Cowboys ... In the preseason, he secured his roster spot by rushing 30 times for 94 yards and a touchdown, in addition to hauling in four passes for 28 yards.
Audie Cole
Minnesota Vikings
The first-year middle linebacker played in all four preseason games and totaled 13 tackles and two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns ... Heads into the season-opener listed as the second-string middle linebacker ... His two picks in the preseason tied for the second-most in the NFL.
Jerricho Cotchery
Pittsburgh Steelers
The nine-year veteran played in all four preseason games, with one start, and notched six catches for 53 yards ... He begins the year as the team's No. 4 wide out.
T.J. Graham
Buffalo Bills
The third-round selection of the Bills appeared in every preseason contest, and finished with nine catches for 146 yards and a rush for minus-four yards ... Opens the campaign listed as a third-string wide out ... Led the Bills in receiving in two of the preseason games, and he should see plenty of regular season action because no team in the league utilized more four receiver sets in 2011 than Buffalo ... Graham tied for 18th in the NFL for preseason receiving yards.
Leroy Harris
Tennessee Titans
The veteran guard started all four preseason tilts on the right side for the Titans.
Steven Hauschka
Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks' starting kicker finished the preseason 10-of-12 on field goals and 12-of-13 on extra points ... He also tallied 21 kickoffs and 13 touchbacks, with an average distance of 68.3 yards ... Hauschka led the NFL with 10 made field goals in the preseason, while his 12 extra points ranked second ... He also paced the league in number of touchbacks during the preseason.
Nate Irving
Denver Broncos
Begins the regular season as the team's second-string strong-side linebacker after he appeared in all four preseason games, with one start, and notched 14 tackles.
Markus Kuhn
New York Giants
The rookie notched an assisted tackle in the Giants' regular season opener, a loss to the Cowboys ... Kuhn served as New York's third defensive tackle in the season-opener ... He totaled six tackles and a pass deflection in the preseason.
Ted Larsen
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The third-year pro appeared in all four preseason games, with one start, for the Bucs and enters the year as the team's starting right guard.
Manny Lawson
Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals' starting strong-side linebacker started every preseason game and totaled five tackles with one sack.
Sean Locklear
New York Giants
The ninth-year pro opened the season at left tackle for the defending Super Bowl champions, but the Giants lost, 24-17.
Terrell Manning
Green Bay Packers
The rookie saw action in every preseason tilt for the Packers, and tallied 12 tackles with one sack ... Heads into the season listed on the third-string at inside linebacker.
Philip Rivers
San Diego Chargers
San Diego's starting quarterback opened three preseason contests, and finished 24-of-30 for 235 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
J.R. Sweezy
Seattle Seahawks
The collegiate defensive lineman nabbed the Seahawks' starting spot at right guard after impressing in the preseason - he started in the final three tune-up games.
Stephen Tulloch
Detroit Lions
The seven-year veteran started the first three preseason games at his customary spot in the middle of the defense and totaled five tackles with an interception.
Mario Williams
Buffalo Bills
The Bills' big offseason addition started all four preseason games, and finished with three tackles and two sacks ... He'll start at left defensive end when the Bills open with the Jets on Sunday.
Adrian Wilson
Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals' starting strong safety totaled 11 tackles and a pair of pass deflections in three preseason games, including two starts.
Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks
Wilson shined in the first two preseason games as a reserve, and earned the start in the last two before being named the regular season starter ... He finished 40-of-63 for 536 yards, five touchdowns and one interception, while he also rushed 10 times for 150 yards and a score ... His passing yardage was the fifth-most in the NFL, while he ranked third with five scoring throws ... His passer rating of 110.3 ranked second in the league.
Willie Young
Detroit Lions
The third-year pro played in every preseason tilt with three starts, and he finished with four tackles, including a sack, a pass deflection, one interception, a forced fumble and a blocked kick ... He opens the year as the team's second-string right defensive end.

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