Update:Read the Technician story on the trial live mascot here.
This is the first post from Sam Dennis, a junior biological sciences major from Jamestown. He’s one of four students who will be blogging for us this fall. Learn more about them here.
While many people look forward to a beach trip and a day off of work at Labor Day, I savor that weekend because it means the start of college football. There’s something magical about NC State football games; there’s an energy that seems indescribable, but I’ll try here to tell the story of one of our university’s most important traditions.
Students can get football tickets in two ways. The first is through the Student Wolfpack Club, where you get up early and get your tickets at Reynolds Coliseum. The other way — the one I use — is through entering an online lottery for tickets. My friends and I stay up until midnight to be the first ones to enter the lottery. This year it took us 15 minutes to get into the system due to the large number of people trying to access it! That got me pumped.
After agonizing through a week of classes, Saturday finally came. Unfortunately, we can tailgate for only five hours, so in the morning I walked around my house screaming “GO PACK,” much to the dismay of my roommates. To tailgate, you have to be prepared. A few hours before the game my friends and I meet and load up. It’s quite the scene. People running around packing coolers, loading up the grill, throwing chairs in the car and getting “Stated Up”. We throw on all sorts of red clothes, red stickers, red buttons and anything with a NC State logo on it. If people can’t tell where we are going from just looking at us, we have not done a good job.
Once the car is packed, it is time to go. This game, we sat in traffic for a long time, but that only got me more excited. While we were sitting in traffic, people in two different trucks started throwing a football to each other. Game days bring different students together, and that is one of my favorite things about them.
By 1:45 p.m., four hours before game time, we were in the Fairgrounds Student Lot tailgating. This game was a little different for me because I had to work at the Alumni Association tailgate. I still got to tailgate in the student lot for almost an hour. Tailgating is one reason why I chose to attend NC State. I had the opportunity to visit my brothers and go to games when I was in high school. All the grills, footballs and beanbags for Cornhole flying through the air, and a sea of red contribute to the Wolfpack spirit. No one is a stranger at a NC State tailgate. As you walk through the row of cars, “Let’s go Wolfpack” is the most-used greeting, and you can talk about the game with anyone. On Saturday the topics of conversation included the return of Nate Irving after missing last season due to a car wreck and whether our defense would be ready. When I had to go to the other side of the stadium to work the Alumni Association tailgate I was able to enjoy what I call “the walk.” The final walk down the gravel road usually occurs right before game time when everyone packs up the tailgate and goes into the game.
At the Alumni Association tailgate, you can see just how much NC State means to people. From recent graduates to people who graduated over 50 years ago, football games call all the Wolfpack faithful home to Raleigh! Old friends discuss their living arrangements in Syme while younger alumni long for the days of all-day tailgating in the fairgrounds.
By 5:30 p.m. my duties at the tailgate were complete, and I was speed walking toward the student entrance. I was stamped with SEZ — South End Zone — as my section. When each student arrives they get assigned a section to sit in. One new thing about this year is that the students have the entire lower bowl behind the South End Zone. I was a skeptic about this, but it turned out to be terrific. The section filled up fast, and by game time the stadium was nearly full.
To me, Wolfpack football is about a number of different things. It’s about yelling Red during the national anthem and being the land of the free and home of the Wolfpack. It is about not being able to sing the last line of the Alma Mater because you’re so choked up and don’t want your friends see you cry. It is about acting like a pack of wolves the whole game. Anyone that has been in the student section knows that our mascot was appropriately named. I was going crazy as the team ran onto the field in a shower of fireworks and smoke. At that moment if you aren’t screaming and clapping there is something wrong with you. The pride and spirit radiates throughout my body, and I will explode if I don’t do something about it; I am bursting at the seams with energy and have to let it out.
After a hiccup on defense and a Western Carolina score, NC State got into gear and took control of the game. We were most excited for that first touchdown. It was right in front of me and it provided a reason to jump up and down and high five every stranger in my general vicinity. Let’s hope there are plenty of moments like that the rest of the season. By halftime the students were able to relax and dance to the music of The Power Sound of the South, NC State’s marching band. It was nice to start off the season 1-o, the first time we have done that in the Tom O’Brien era. As I scanned the stadium I was able to spot our newest fan, Tuffy the live mascot. It is exciting to have another “wolf” (it is actually a dog, but we won’t tell anyone) roaming the sidelines.
After a long but exciting day I left Carter-Finley already counting down the days until our next home game against Cincinnati on Sept. 16th.
(Photographs courtesy of Sam Dennis)