GREENSBORO, N.C. - NC State fifth-year senior middle linebacker Nate Irving talked about his car accident, injuries, frustrations and hope for the future Sunday at the ACC Football Kickoff.
How is your body feeling right now?
I feel pretty good. Everything is back to normal. I'm just getting into good football shape.
When did you start to feel the same as before the accident?
I'd say a little bit after the [Kay Yow] Spring Game. I was a little uncertain about how my body would react to playing in the spring game but it felt pretty good and they told me not to worry about it. I just realized that I'm back to where I was at.
What were your injuries and how threatening were they?
They were serious injuries, I don't think any were life-threatening. I had a fractured rib, a broken rib, a punctured lung, a separated shoulder and a compound fracture in my left leg.
Was the leg the one that took the longest to recover from?
Yeah, that was the one that took the longest to heal because both of the bones in my leg were broke, so that took until January, February, something like that.
Do you remember anything about the crash?
Some details. Everything is still a little bit fuzzy from that night but I can remember leaving my house, getting on 40 and passing an 18-wheeler. After that, I just remember the hospital lights as I was rolling down the hallway and that was about it.
It must have been scary.
It was because I can remember screaming and not knowing where I was at, but I do not remember feeling any pain. I handled it OK.
Did you think your football career was over?
When I woke up in the hospital, that was the first thing I thought. I wanted to check to make sure everything was still intact, and I wanted to know what happened because I wasn't really aware of it. Then after, I felt the tubes and braces around my neck and everything, and I asked him if I would be able to play again.
What was the reply?
He told me, "Yes, but let's not worry about that right now. It'll come back in due time."
What was it like being back in the spring?
I didn't know how my body would respond to it. In the middle of practices, I started to be able to trust myself and my body, and get back to the rigors of football.
When did you stop worrying about your body and were able to concentrate on football again?
When I started spring practice, I realized, "OK, I had an injury, now it's time to rebound from the injury." I had to do what I do, so I wouldn't be out there thinking about a hurt leg or being cautious. That's when you get hurt playing.
Do you feel like you are where you were before the injury?
I feel like I'm back, but time will tell when I go to camp. Right now, I feel like I'm back in full effect.
Did you participate fully in the spring in hitting?
My doctor cleared me in spring practice for full contact. My coaches and myself wanted to see what I could do, so I went out there in full swing and gave it everything I had.
Have any concerns in the spring?
Before practice started, it was just me wondering how my leg would respond to it. By the time practice started and I got a couple of practices under my belt, I was [fine].
Do you have any lingering aches and pains? Or just football stuff?
I don't. It's all football stuff, maybe a sore back or sore ankles but that's it.
How much better do you expect the defense to be this year?
I don't know how much difference I can make, but I just want to be out there with my guys and let them know that I'm right there with them and I'm ready to go through whatever I need to go through to get where we need to get.
What was it like to watch the team struggle defensively last year?
It was hard and not because I felt like I could make such a big difference, but because I had to watch my guys go through the season that they went through. I felt like I let some of the seniors down because I wanted to be out there to go through everything with them and I wasn't able to do that. I felt bad. I felt like I let all of the seniors down.
Was it hard to keep your spirits up when you came out of the hospital?
It was a tremendous help to me because when I first got out of the hospital, I didn't want to eat. I didn't want to do anything besides just sit there in my bed and just rest. I didn't want to do anything, but my family wouldn't let that happen. They were joking with me - my father, my brother, my stepmother, my friends from high school, they just kept calling me, joking around with me so that got me going [positive].
Where you on the sidelines for any games last fall?
For the Virginia Tech game and Carolina game, coach [Tom O'Brien] let me on the sidelines and down with the team.
Were you able to attend practices?
I was out at every practice, just trying to help the guys see what I saw and let them know a different perspective.
As the season starts, do you ever stop to think about how the comeback is finally happening?
I think about it every day, I don't let it take over. I think about, what happened, where I came from and how it changed me as a person, but, after that, I'm thinking about where I want to go.
What's it like to drive now?
I was ready to drive. I wasn't scared because I really don't remember anything. I think that had a big part of it. As soon as I was able to leave the hospital, I wanted to drive home, but my parents didn't want that. I was ready to be on the road again.
Same thing driving at night, too?
Nothing as far as driving scares me. I'm just a little more wise about [the situation]. If I don't have enough energy or something, I'll take a little nap or something. I just can't get out there at 4:00 in the morning.
Have you talked to BC linebacker Mark Herzlich about how similar your situations are?
It's different injuries but it effected us the same way. We had to sit out the season and watch our team go through the fire. I want to see how he comes back and how he responds to everything he's gone through. We've cracked a couple of jokes together. We had the same coaching staff, so we have a lot of things in common to talk about.
Has the accident changed you as a person?
Yeah, I think it has. It made grow mentally. I'm a lot more mature in my decision making about what to do and what not to do.