One thing Dave Doeren has learned in his two springs as head coach of the NC State football program: Wolfpack fans love the chance to celebrate their alumni and enjoy the surroundings of Carter-Finley Stadium in April.
“I think one thing that makes NC State special is its alumni, the way they come back and support the program,” said the second-year coach. “Our fan base is tremendous and our former players genuinely care about that fan base.
“Our former players come back more than any place I have ever worked. That means a lot to our current roster.”
So Saturday, when Doeren unveils his second edition of the Wolfpack at the annual Kay Yow Spring Football Game, the atmosphere in the stadium will be especially celebratory as the coach and his team welcome back hundreds of football alumni, including three who played in Super Bowl XLVIII, and another who is the only player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be chosen first in the NFL draft.
The headliners at the event, which begins at 10:45 a.m. with an alumni game, will be quarterback Russell Wilson of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and 2006 top pick Mario Williams, who is now a defensive lineman with the Buffalo Bills. Both have been selected to have their jersey numbers honored by the school.
Also being recognized at the day-long celebration of Wolfpack football will be Wilson’s Seahawk teammates Steven Hauschka, a placekicker who is unable to attend the event, and J.R. Sweezy, an offensive lineman who is slated to participate. Nate Irving, a starting linebacker on the other side of the line of scrimmage in the Super Bowl for the Denver Broncos, will also be in attendance.
For current players, like new starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett who transferred to NC State from Florida last January, getting a chance to spend time with former players is a big enhancement to his college football experience.
“That’s what it is about, getting to the next level and then coming back here,” Brissett said. “I actually got to spend some time with Russell last year at his passing academy. It’s great to sit there and talk and make connections with those former players and see what their experiences have been like.”
The weekend activities begin on Friday when the Wolfpack Club hosts its Barbecue Bowl, “Kickin’ at the Carter,” in the RV parking lot adjacent to the Murphy Football Center. In addition to the annual cook-off, there will be live music by Old Habits, food trucks and activities in the Junior Wolfpack Club Fun Zone for young fans.
Saturday, parking lots will open at 8 a.m. and the Barbecue Bowl will continue from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Judges include Irving, current NFL players Earl Wolff of the Philadelphia Eagles and Tobais Palmer of the San Diego Chargers, as well as current basketball players Staats Battle and Chase Cannon. Doug Clark’s Hot Nuts will provide musical entertainment.
Stadium gates open at 10:30 a.m., with the alumni game beginning at 10:45. More than 70 former players have committed to playing in the event, with Williams and Irving as honorary coaches.
Admission to the spring game is free, but a voluntary donation of at least $1 is suggested, with all proceeds going to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and the Wolfpack Club’s Kay Yow Scholarship endowment.
Parking is free to fans in the following lots: Stadium East, Stadium Southeast, Stadium West, Stadium North and Fairgrounds parking lots, but due to an event at PNC Arena, fans parking in other lots are subject to paying a parking fee. Fans should enter through Gates A, B, C and Westchase.