Fifth-year senior defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy was supposed to be in the middle of an All-ACC campaign at this point. He was an honorable mention all-conference honoree last year and voted a team captain in the preseason.
Then he fractured his foot, requiring surgery, and missed the first four games of the year. He returned to play 27 snaps against Georgia Tech Oct. 1, making three tackles, including a sack, and pressuring the quarterback three times.
It seemed like Sweezy was back, but then against Central Michigan a week later Sweezy was held without a tackle in 29 plays. He was still feeling pain in his foot, and he went to Charlotte to visit with renowned orthopedic specialist Robert Anderson.
Sweezy was questionable for the game at Virginia, but after being reassured by Anderson that the foot was sound, he played 25 snaps as a reserve, making a tackle. More importantly, Sweezy is relieved to be back on the field without much worry about his foot.
"It's great," Sweezy stated. "It's what I dreamed about every night the whole offseason and going into the season, and then having this happened to my foot wasn't truly fair, but it happened for a reason and God has a plan for me. Lucky enough I've been blessed to come back out here and play a little bit.
"We didn't really know the deal was, so we where kind of unsure where we stood, but it all worked in the end."
Sweezy admits that he "can deal with a lot of pain," which is good because the foot will still be sore. However, he said he felt good at Virginia.
"I can run on it and everything," Sweezy said. "I'm just ready to get back into football."
NC State will need Sweezy to be a force Saturday at Florida State, especially with the dual-threat presented by FSU redshirt junior quarterback EJ Manuel.
"You got to keep him contained," Sweezy said. "You can't let him get outside the pocket or he's going to keep making plays. You got to keep pressure on him, too, though or he's going to make plays anyway. It's going to be like playing with our hair on fire."
Both teams are 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the ACC. Both teams know how important this game can be.
"It's huge," Sweezy said. "They are a great team. We're coming up, finally playing the way we need to play. It'd be a big step for us to get a 'W' on Saturday."