The Wolfpacker

July 2016

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 35 of 163

34 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY MATT CARTER C all it fate, destiny or God's will — the bottom line is that Matthew Dayes was meant to be at NC State. The senior running back from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has had multiple op- portunities to be elsewhere, chances that he came within eyelashes of taking. Yet he has always found himself in Ra- leigh, and he is grateful for that. Almost A Commodore NC State may have been Dayes' first scholarship offer when he was a standout tailback at Cypress Bay High in Weston, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. The confusion stems from a lack of clear communication with West Virginia. "Once NC State told me that I had an offer from them, I called West Virginia and asked them if I had an offer from them," Dayes recalled. "They said I had been having one from them, but they never really let me know what that was about. "I guess I got two first offers." Regardless, West Virginia did not figure into the picture with Dayes; Vanderbilt was the serious competition for NC State. Dayes is a self-acknowledged city boy. After taking summer visits to NCSU and Vanderbilt, he chose to commit to the Wolfpack, partially because of all of his trips, Raleigh "was the least country place that I had been to." "When I took my visit to Vanderbilt, I didn't get my own room and there was no privacy there," Dayes added. "When I came here the area was nice, and I was able to get my own room. The players were cool, and the coaches were awesome. I thought this was my best fit." However, the commitment to NCSU dur- ing the summer before his senior year was for then-head coach Tom O'Brien. Dayes was thrown for a loop when O'Brien was replaced by Dave Doeren. Ironically, NC State played Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., during the coaching transition. The Com- modores rolled to a 38-24 win. Dayes was certain he just watched his future team play, and it was not NC State. In January, Dayes was ready to reveal his intentions. "I did commit to Vanderbilt," Dayes conceded. There was one hang-up — the Vander- bilt coaches were all on airplanes and un- able to reach their phones. Thus, Dayes decided he would call NC State running backs coach Des Kitchings to thank him for the opportunity. Kitchings was the one holdover between O'Brien's and Doeren's coaching staffs, and he had an established relationship with Dayes. Kitchings remembered the call and the knot in his stomach that he got. "He was obviously a big piece," Kitchings said. "I had a little sinking feeling with the new coach here and getting one of our better recruits to stay on board." Dayes had rushed for 1,864 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior at Cypress Bay, leading it to the 8-A state title game, the largest classification in talent-rich Florida. Cypress Bay lost to Apopka, but not because of Dayes. He ran for 174 yards and five scores in the championship contest. This came a year after Dayes had missed much of his junior season with an ankle injury and ran for 484 yards. His recruit- ing profile was rising dramatically, and the prospect of losing him to Vanderbilt was nerve-wracking for NC State. Kitchings remembered that Dayes never actually told him that he was committing to Vanderbilt. Dayes recalled the advice Kitch- ings gave him: think about it a little more. Dayes had already anguished over the choice, a decision that he called the toughest of his life. "I wanted someone to make that deci- sion for me. That's how bad it was," he remembered. That night, after discussing it with his parents and high school coaches, Dayes went with what his heart told him: NC State. All this transpired because he could not reach Vanderbilt's coaches on the phone ear- lier that day. "That's the reason I am here right now," he said. Almost A Transfer As a true freshman, Dayes played in 11 of 12 games for NC State and rushed 62 times for 252 yards and four touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 173 yards and a score. By most accounts, that is a solid contribu- tion from a rookie fresh out of high school. For a homesick Dayes, it added a layer of frustration to what he believes was "probably the roughest time in my life." He did not know anyone at NC State, and anybody who knows Dayes can attest that he is not the type to go introduce himself to new people. Kitchings remembered asking Dayes' high school coach Mark Guandolo if the running back was as soft-spoken as he appeared to be. With few friends and no car to get around, he perceived his lack of playing time to be a last straw. His grades were also suffering as a result of his unhappiness. "It was horrible," Dayes said looking back. "I was planning on transferring. That's how bad that fall season went for me. I talked to my parents and my advisors, and they told me to give this thing a chance." It just so happened that spring marked the arrival of quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was transferring from Florida. Dayes and Brissett became fast friends. That helped him to start talking to other guys on the team. His grades also improved dramatically. He changed his eating habits to get in bet- ter shape, and the payoff was quickly evident in spring when he realized he was never get- ting tired in practice. "I was blaming everyone else for my problems," Dayes remembered. "It was the coaches' fault I am not playing. I feel like a lot of guys say the same thing I am saying, and it takes them a long time to realize that it's on you, not on everyone else. A True WOLFPACKER Senior Matthew Dayes Has Found His Way At NC State FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2016

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolfpacker - July 2016