Redshirt sophomore defensive end Mike Rose appeared in 12 games last year as a reserve and made one of the biggest plays of the season when he blocked a punt from No. 3 Florida State in the fourth quarter, which led to the eventual go-ahead touchdown in the Wolfpack's upset victory.
The defender rose to the occasion once again this season on the national stage with the Pack playing in primetime against Clemson last Thursday. Rose, a native of Fountain Inn, S.C., tallied six tackles, which led all defensive linemen, and notched two tackles for a loss of 12 yards, including a sack, as well as a pass deflection.
"I ended up coming up with a couple of big plays," he said. "It was great. I got to see some things I've never seen before, I got to be in longer and study things I saw on tape that I never got to play against."
He admitted that for now, the takedown of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd stands as the most memorable play of his gridiron career, but he added that he plans to top it in the future.
"I'm going to be talking about that [sack] for a long time," he said with a smile. "I've got some friends in South Carolina and they're going to hear about that one."
Part of the reason that Rose logged a career-best 55 snaps from scrimmage was due to the injury suffered by Darryl Cato-Bishop, the fifth-year senior starter that shares snaps at the same position.
"[It was tough after Cato-Bishop was injured] because he's like a mentor to me," Rose explained. "He has really showed me the way and showed me how to be a great player.
"I was inspired playing behind Cato-Bishop, he's a great player and I've been kind of shadowing him. It was good to finally get out there and make something of it."
Rose played 155 snaps at defensive end last season and finished with eight tackles, including one for loss, and three quarterback hurries, in addition to the blocked punt. Through three games, he has already logged 115 snaps while he has recorded eight tackles, including two for loss and a sack, two quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
He was named the NC State defensive player of the week for his performance against Clemson and could be in line for an even bigger role this week with Cato-Bishop questionable for Saturday, according to head coach Dave Doeren on Monday.
"It was great to show I can play with just about anybody in the country on a big-time ESPN game," he said. "[The player of the week honor] shows the coaches have a lot of confidence in me and hopefully that confidence will go into this week when we play Central Michigan."
Rose's confidence in himself is also high. He moved around the field as a speedy, 6-foot-3, 215-pounder at Hillcrest High School. He thought he would play defensive end in college - and that is where he started - but the coaches also experimented with him at linebacker in the spring before the 2012 campaign.
"I played a lot of positions in high school, but defensive end is the position that I felt pretty good about," he said. "I think I've come a long ways. I went from just being like a safety/quarterback [in high school] to defensive end. Then I kind of floated my way to linebacker [in college] and then back to defensive end, but now I feel I'm in the right spot with the right coaching staff in the right position.
"When they put me back at [defensive end], I felt comfortable."
The transition back to his old position went smoothly and Rose, who is now up to 252 pounds, said the key was getting the mental part of the game down.
"Anything with me is all mental," he admitted. "The game is 85 percent mental and 15 percent physical. It helped me just rush the passer, which is what I do best - I get after the quarterback and get TFLs."
The Pack is hoping Rose can continue coming into his own and they'll need him to step up in a big way on Saturday against Central Michigan, especially if Cato-Bishop can't play. The redshirt sophomore is looking forward to the challenge.
"They're an old-school team - a hard-nosed, running team," Rose noted. "They have a good quarterback who is a freshman and the running back is a tough runner.
"This is a fundamental game. This is a perfect game. Our coach, [defensive line] Coach [Ryan] Nielsen loves games like this."