The Wolfpacker

September 2015

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 21 of 95

22 ■ THE WOLFPACKER TRACKING THE PACK NC State redshirt junior middle line- backer M.J. Salahuddin could be deemed the forgotten man on defense. The 6-2, 227-pounder was expected to compete for a starting job last year, but suffered a knee injury during preseason camp and missed the 2014 season. Sala- huddin is now healthy and poised to make an impact this fall. Salahuddin has started five games and played in 19 during his Wolfpack career, amassing 29 tackles and two tackles for loss. He'll be competing with redshirt sophomores Jerod Fernandez and Ford Howell for playing time this season. The former Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt standout recently took some time to talk with The Wolfpacker and answer some questions about his return to the football field. What is it like to be back on the playing field again? "It's very humbling. Sitting out last year made me ap- preciate the game more. I appreciate being around my teammates. I appreciate the coaches. I even appreciate the grass." How does someone appreciate the grass? "The smell. The grass has a distinct smell during the summer. Everybody that plays football knows it. When you come out here, you just waft it in. I definitely ap- preciate that smell, which insinuates it is time to go to work." What did you miss most about playing with your teammates? "The first word that comes to mind is family. When one person goes down, you pick them back up. I felt like they did that with me. In the meeting rooms, they had No. 42 written down everywhere to let me know they were playing for me. It was exciting to watch them and mentor the young guys from the sideline." How have you transformed from a 185-pound junior safety in high school? "I'd say a little bit of my mama's cooking because she is a caterer — just a healthy diet with protein. And then getting up here in college, and getting involved with Coach V [Jason Veltkamp]. They have done a very nice job in the offseason of getting me prepared for college football. "I didn't hit 220 until Coach V got there. He did a great job of transforming my body to where it needs to be at about 230 pounds." What are your goals for this season? "I can't wait to get out there and show the world and ACC what I can do. I'm shooting for ACC Comeback Player of the Year. I just want to show that I'm still explosive and a leader out there on the field." How have you settled in at middle linebacker? "It's about leadership and control — those are the two biggest things as a Mike linebacker. I'm just going to get out there and talk to the defensive line and com - municate to the back end of the secondary. It's good to be involved with that again. I just love to be in charge." When do you think you'll get your sports management degree? "It is looking like maybe this fall or this upcoming spring. After football is over, I'd like be a coach. I'll sit around with [defensive coordinator and linebackers] Coach [Dave] Huxtable and talk about everything, and I found out it was the right path for me. Hopefully, I'll pursue a master's to go along with that." What have you learned from head coach Dave Doeren and former Jack Britt prep coach Rich - ard Bailey? "From Coach Bailey, it's about working hard. He defi- nitely inspired me to be a hard worker and motivated leader. We had a lot of leadership trials and tribulations at Jack Britt. He taught us how to win, and that is the biggest thing. "Coach Doeren has taught me things outside of life, such as how to be a man. I've learned more about sche - matics of football. Basically, it's all about making plays. I'd prefer to be a college coach because of the atmo- sphere. I've always dreamed of playing college football." How would you be as a college football re- cruiter? "I think I'd definitely be persuasive, but not in the sense of lying to prospects. I'd tell them how it is and how the collegiate atmosphere is. I'd show them the ins and outs of what is really going on." Who inspires you? "I'd have to say my son, Tre. He is 9 months old, and I feel like every day I wake up in the morning, I play for him. That inspires me to keep on going. "I hurt my knee close to 11 or 12 months ago, but hurting my knee gave me the opportunity to see the birth of my son. It was a blessing in disguise. This year, he'll be in the stands watching me. We can't lose, and I can't make mistakes. I have a lot on my shoulders." — Jacey Zembal Salahuddin, who missed last season due to a knee injury, has seen action in 19 games and made 29 tackles during his Wolfpack career. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN Getting To Know: Redshirt Junior Middle Linebacker M.J. Salahuddin ■ Football Quick Questions What is your favorite restaurant in Fay- etteville? Grandsons or Miyabi Japanese Steak House. Drake or Meek Mill in a rapper battle? I have to go Drake because he is the hottest right now. Who would you like to see perform? I'd have to go Kevin Hart because I love to laugh, and he is one of the consistently funniest guys. Favorite NFL player? Former, I'd say the late Sean Taylor. Right now, Thomas Davis [of the Carolina Panthers] because he survived three ACL injuries. I watched his story and [former NCSU star] Stephen Tulloch [of Detroit Lions], and was inspired by their stories. Favorite road stadium to play at? Clem - son. If you could play another sport, what would it be? Basketball. My first love was bas- ketball, and it will always be my last love. Favorite NC State player in another sport? BeeJay Anya in basketball. He is a pres- ence down low, always blocking shots and is consistent on defense. I play defense, so I respect him and what he brings to the table. I just love watching the whole basketball team. Guilty pleasure on television? "Wild 'n Out" with Nick Cannon. I just love to laugh. Best movie you watched this past sum - mer? The best was "Focus" with Will Smith. It kept me on my heels.

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