Ever since Tom O'Brien arrived at NC State, the Pack has made a concentrated effort to increase its presence on the recruiting trail in the state of Georgia.
Starting with the 2007 class, a transition year between Chuck Amato's recruits and O'Brien in which State landed a late recruit in linebacker Thomas Barnes from Dublin (Ga.) High, NC State has signed 26 players who hailed from the Peach State, although technically offensive lineman Duran Christophe is from New Orleans and finished his high school career at Woodstock (Ga.) High because of Hurricane Katrina.
Of all the Georgia-natives inked, few have as close a connection to the 2012 season opener against Tennessee on Aug. 31 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta as defensive end Art Norman. He starred at Chamblee High in Stone Mountain, Ga., which Norman estimated was no more than 20 minutes away from Atlanta if the traffic was good.
"It is home," Norman said.
The Tennessee game will also be the third time Norman has played in the Georgia Dome. He played there in middle school and once again as a 10th grader in the state playoffs.
"It's a big deal," Norman noted. "But I feel like this is going to be the best out of the three."
Because of its proximity to Norman's home, he has been targeted with requests for tickets. He estimated that somewhere around 30 family and friends have asked. Problem is players only get four for the game.
"I'm really focused on my family first, and that's probably a good 12 or something, and then my friends and coaches after," he stated. "I've been asking everybody on the team, 'I'd get you some Uconn or Citadel tickets.' Trying to get as many as I can."
Norman said that playing in the same facility that the NFL's Atlanta Falcons use is special. Everything else though is business for Norman. He does not necessarily buy into the hype of opening against an SEC opponent like Tennessee.
"I don't really feel like it's a whole big deal," he said. "All the first games are exciting. Everybody is ready to hit somebody instead of their teammates."
That has not stopped Norman, who had seven sacks and 30 quarterback hurries as a redshirt freshman, from studying up on the Volunteers.
"I have been looking at Tennessee, me and my teammates, for about a month now," he admitted.