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Time flies for everyone — even the fifth-year senior.
Dexter Wright remembers vividly when he first arrived to North Carolina State after graduating from Hunt High. It seems surreal to Wright, The Wilson Times Athlete of the Year in 2014, that the end of his college career is only months away.
Before the final curtain call, which Wright hopes will be in a major bowl game, he has work to do. N.C. State, which lost eight starters on last season’s 9-4 squad, has no real interest in taking a step back.
That means veterans like Wright have to display leadership. The former Warriors star is up to the challenge.
“Obviously being of the seniors, a fifth-year senior, I know guys are going to be looking up to me to make the calls and to make sure everything is the way it is supposed to be,” Wright said. “I will definitely be a leader verbally and with my play as well.
“We have just let the freshmen and the guys that have transferred in know what the expectations are and they have seen it from last season. They know what is expected so the level of confidence we have in them is growing. We have to continue to remind them, they can’t let us, this team or themselves down. They understand that.”
While there is not a ton of time to be wistful over his time at N.C. State approaching its final season, it still is hard for him the fathom that, even with the benefit of a redshirt season, the final run is underway.
“I talk about it all the time. I feel like I just arrived here on campus, rooming with Cole Cook and Shawn Boone, and to think I have just played my last spring game,” Wright said. “It is crazy to think about.”
The young players have more time to grow. Wright was once in that same boat.
Now when he does look back at where he was prior to the 2014 season, he feels much of what he has improved on relates to the psychological portion of the game along with the fundamentals.
“I think my confidence has grown since I came to N.C. State,” Wright said. “I believe in myself a lot more. I have grown mentally as a player in terms of understanding the defense as a whole. I just try to put myself in a position where I can make the plays and I can capitalize on things.”
While Wright has one more season to go, time ran out for most of the Wolfpack’s starters on defense from last season — including the front-line quartet of Bradley Chubb, B.J. Hill, Justin Jones and Kentavius Street.
He expects that there is a burden of proof for the N.C. State defense from those outside the team.
“Understand, especially when we lose probably the four best defensive linemen in the country last year,” Wright said. “They were very experienced. It is to be expected that people are going to doubt you. That is perfectly fine with us. We are looking forward to proving people wrong.
“The thing people want us to prove is that we can fill the gaps. I have all the faith in the guys. We have two people injured at the moment, so bringing them back will help as well. I have all the confidence in them. I know we are going to surprise some people.”
What are Wright’s goals for N.C. State in 2018? Regardless of the change over his time in Raleigh, the answer to that is the same as it ever was.
“The expectation is always to win,” Wright said. “Nothing has changed for us. We expect to be great. Obviously, we want to be better than last year. I think once we put all of the pieces together, offensively with the explosiveness we have at receiver and our running backs and defensively when we show what we can do, we can be every bit as good as we were last year.”
Ultimately, when Wright is gone he hopes that N.C. State’s program will continue to grow.
He also would like to see kids in Wilson, regardless of where they play, follow in his footsteps and matriculate to college to play ball.
Wright has a special message for the young student-athletes of his hometown.
“Stay conditioned, stretch, be flexible and just put in the work every single day because there is plenty of people out here that are trying to be better than you,” Wright advises. “If you take one day off, they have gotten a step ahead of you.”