The Wolfpacker

March 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 52 of 95

CATCHING ON T A Prep Star At Wideout, Tony Creecy Has Emerged At Running Back BY RYAN TICE ony Creecy was a huge get on the recruiting trail for head coach Tom O'Brien and company when he committed to the Pack out of Southern Durham (N.C.) High in June 2009. The four-star prospect was a SuperPrep All-America selection at wide receiver during his prep career, and it was initially thought that he would continue to play out wide on the next level. However, Creecy broke onto the field as a redshirt freshman for the Wolfpack last fall and, although he didn't completely leave behind catching passes, it was at a new position — running back. "I played running back all through Pop Warner and middle school, I only played receiver in high school," the 6-0, 203-pounder explained. Although Creecy logged at least one carry in three of the first four games, his role really expanded in the team's fifth con- test, against Georgia Tech. With fifth-year senior Curtis Underwood, the No. 2 back, out due to a knee injury, the rookie received a chance and he ran with it. "I didn't play much at the beginning, but I didn't get down on myself," he said. "I had people tell me to always keep working. I'm a hard-working guy, so just because I wasn't playing, I wasn't going to change anything. I just kept working hard and, when my opportunity came, I took advan- tage of it." Creecy noted that he prepares the same whether he is listed as the second-string running back going into the game or if he is the fifth guy down on the depth chart. The preparation paid off against the Yel- low Jackets, with Creecy rushing 12 times for 77 yards, including a 27-yard scamper that set up a one-yard scoring pass from quarterback Mike Glennon to fullback Ty- ler Purvis. In 2011, Creecy played in 12 games, carried the ball 103 times for 382 yards and one touchdown, and caught 25 passes for 157 yards and three scores. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN "It was hard to stay positive [in the first four games], but it's easier with support," Creecy noted. "At first, I was feeling down on myself and I had a whole bunch of thoughts — but talking to my dad, talking to my other family members, talking to my coaches, they all told me to keep working hard and my opportunity came." The 77 yards on the ground in his first extensive collegiate game action was a season best for Creecy, who set a career high with 101 all-purpose yards in the regular-season finale against Maryland. In 12 games, the back totaled 382 yards and one score on 103 rushing attempts (3.7 yards per carry) and 157 yards and three touchdowns on 25 receptions (6.3 yards per catch). His 539 all-purpose yards ranked fourth on the team, and he served as the team's backup running back in the final nine contests, including the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. "Every week, I tried to get better, and the coaches thought I was getting better so my playing time increased," he said. "I kept telling myself to just keep working hard. If you work hard in practice, the game comes easy and I know that, so I've been working hard in practice and things have just come naturally in games." Playing running back after spending four years as a wide receiver was something that did not come so naturally for Creecy, who admitted that his redshirt year in 2010-11 was necessary for him to adjust to carrying the ball once again. "Playing at running back didn't come back when I first came in because I was big, I came in heavy and overweight," Creecy remembered about his first year on campus. "I had got hurt in my last high school game and picked up a couple of pounds, I was about 230. I think it hap- pened for the best, though, because during that redshirt year, I got bigger, faster and stronger. Also, I was on the scout team of- fense so I was going against the first-team defense all year and that helped a lot. "Playing on the scout team was great for me. Every time I did something, [for- mer linebacker and current Denver Bronco] Nate Irving would tell me what I could change to make it better. That way, when I started playing, I would be the best I could be. Everything he told me has worked — he told me what the defender likes to do against a running back — so Nate was a big help; Terrell Manning was the same way." After receiving some tips from his line- backer counterparts, Creecy began to pick up the offense and improve as a ball carrier. Once that happened and he got back to his playing weight — closer to 200 pounds — the freshman's development took off. He even took advantage of his receiver back- ground and incorporated that into his skill set, becoming a dangerous threat on routes out of the backfield. "Once I got back into the flow of things and learned the offense, that's when it started coming back to me," he said. "I'm at 203 pounds now, that's where I love being at. And being a receiver helped me out a lot because I know how to catch and I know how to run routes, which makes it harder for linebackers to keep up with me." Creecy's fellow running backs have also helped him learn the ins and outs of toting the rock. Although they're competing with each other for touches, Creecy said that would never prevent a back from helping a teammate. "James [Washington] and Curtis have also helped me tremendously," he said. "Curtis has helped me, but James has been the one to help me the most because we room together in the hotels. We get take- home tests at night; James and I go through the test so we know our assignments, we know what's going to happen, we know who is playing and things of that nature. James has really helped me in that area. "We're always going to be competitive with each other because it's football — we're men with testosterone — but we're close and we don't brag to each other. We tell each other, 'great job,' and we're sup- portive but, at the same time, we get real competitive to make sure we push each other." ■ MARCH 2012 ■ 53

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