With second-string running back Curtis Underwood out against Georgia Tech with a knee injury, redshirt freshman Tony Creecy knew that Saturday could be his time to shine. Although starter James Washington stole the show with 131 yards rushing and five additional receptions, Creecy responded very well to the first extensive action of his college career and finished with 12 rushes for 77 yards.
"It was a pretty good experience, but it was all about preparation," the 6-foot, 196-pounder said. "Even though I wasn't playing at the beginning of the season, I kept working hard and waiting for my opportunity. When I got my opportunity, I took advantage of it.
"I have prepared the same way the whole season, whether I'm third, fourth or fifth [on the depth chart]. I always work like I'm first or second, just so if I get my opportunity, I'll be ready to go."
The former prep receiver at Durham (N.C.) Southern High saw action in three of the Pack's first four contests and was on the field for 13 snaps while he rushed six times for 21 yards. However, he eclipsed those season totals when he logged 23 plays on Saturday and had a long run of 27 yards that set up a one-yard touchdown pass from Mike Glennon to backup fullback Tyler Purvis.
It marked Creecy's debut with the first-team offense in a game so he had to work the butterflies out of his system, but he settled in and got comfortable as the game wore on despite the challenges of playing in front of 55,000-plus fans.
"It felt great to be out there, at first I had some jitters but, after that, I got used to it and the flow just came natural," he said. "It's a lot different playing at Carter-Finley, you can't hear. In high school, you can hear the signals. When the game is going on [in college], it's too loud to hear."
Despite falling behind by 21 just five seconds into the second quarter, the Wolfpack staged a comeback and pulled within one score of Georgia Tech, who is ranked No. 13 in the AP rankings this week.
"It was real encouraging and it shows that we're a good team," Creecy said. "If we start the way we finished, the game would've been much closer. If we start every game like we finished against Georgia Tech, we'll be a great team."
Creecy also sees the playing time he received against Georgia Tech as a positive for himself. He tested himself against one of the ACC's best squads and that experience will come in handy later in the year.
"I've improved a lot here," he said. "The more you play, the more experience you get, the easier it becomes. Playing a lot for the first time against Georgia Tech will help me out tremendously. It was not a slouch team, so I had to know my assignment, I had to know what to do. It will be real helpful [in the future]."
Although the Pack coaches are hopeful that Underwood can return to the field this weekend against Central Michigan, Creecy will keep his nose to the grindstone and continue to prepare like he's the starter, even though he's not listed on the two-deep released Monday. The way Creecy prepares will never change according to the youngster, but one thing that has already changed is the number of ticket requests the ball carrier fields for a home game.
"I had a lot of family and friends out there against Georgia Tech," he said. "Now that I've played, a lot more want to come now."