- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving, who suffered a broken leg and also punctured his lung and injured his shoulder in a June 28 one-car crash, will miss the entire season, he told ESPN.com on Thursday.
Irving, the team's top defender and one of the best players on the Wolfpack roster, reportedly fell asleep at the wheel of his car while driving back to school from home on Interstate 40. His status has been listed as "out indefinitely" until Thursday's doctor appointment confirmed his leg would not heal in time to play this season.
"At first it was tough for me to accept it, but as the days go on I have my support team around me and it will get easier," Irving said. "I kind of expected it because of the severity of my injuries, but I kept everything as an option. Right now all I know is I'll be there to support the team."
Irving has averaged 8.7 tackles per game in 12 career starts and has 136 career tackles. He missed a third of season with an injury last year, but still led the team with four interceptions -- the highest total ever by a Wolfpack linebacker. He also led the team in tackles in five games.
Irving said he can "work out a little bit," just as much as he can tolerate, and that he met individually with coach Tom O'Brien after a doctor's appointment this afternoon to learn of his playing status. Those within the program who saw pictures of Irving's accident have said it's a miracle Irving is even alive. He agreed.
"After looking at a couple of the pictures and seeing a couple of outcomes of accidents other people were in, I just thank God I'm still here today," Irving said.
In his absence, NC State will turn to sophomore linebacker Dwayne Maddox, who took over for the injured Irving last year. Maddox was the only true freshman on defense to start a game in 2008, and he finished with 32 tackles in nine games with four starts. The Wolfpack should still be a better football team than it was a year ago, when it won its final four regular season games to finish 6-7 overall with a loss to Rutgers in the Papajohns.com Bowl, but the loss of Irving will definitely sting.
For now, Irving said, he's putting his NFL aspirations on hold.
"I'm not thinking about it right now," he said. "I just want to get better."
ESPN.com's Heather Dinich covers ACC football for ESPN.com.
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