The five freshman N.C. State football players who were disciplined this month amid a sexual-assault investigation were excited to join the Wolfpack, posting about the team on social media and talking to their hometown newspapers.
Two of them – wide receiver Antoine Thompson and defensive end Kevince Brown – were dismissed from the team after police said they were at a party with alcohol and marijuana. Three women who were also at the party July 21 told police they were sexually assaulted.
The other three players – linebacker Isaiah Moore, defensive end Xavier Lyas and running back Erin Collins – are suspended from the team, according to the university’s athletics department.
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It’s unclear what the players were doing at the party. No charges have been filed against any of them, and head football coach Dave Doeren said Tuesday that he disciplined them for violating the school’s Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.
The players have not spoken publicly since Tuesday’s announcement. But their online presence in the weeks and months leading up to the season that starts in a couple of weeks paints a picture of young men who were passionate about football.
It’s likely some of the players knew each other before arriving in Raleigh. Four of them are from Florida – three from Plant City, a town of about 38,000 people roughly 25 miles east of Tampa.
Brown, Thompson and Lyas are from Plant City, and Collins is also from Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Moore is from Virginia.
Brown graduated from Winter Park High School in Orange County, Fla., about 70 miles from Plant City. He committed to N.C. State in January and was impressed with the football team’s linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable.
“(Huxtable)’s a really cool guy and he cares more about my education and me graduating and my future. I appreciate that from him,” Brown told The Wolfpacker website on Feb. 1.
Orlando Christian Prep head football coach Guerschom Demosthenes told the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday that he was surprised Brown was dismissed from the team. He said he coached Brown for two years.
“He was a great kid, great charisma, and he was just starting to really develop into a football player,” Demosthenes said. “He went off to N.C. State and I gave my blessings to him. He’s always been really good with me and everybody loved him.
“He’s kind of a people’s person. ... He had everything right in front of him and my speech to him was, ‘God has given you an opportunity, so do not blow it. Do not get in the wrong crowd. Do not blow this opportunity that the Lord has given you.’ ”
A page on hudl.com, a website that allows players, coaches and scouts to post and review game film, features videos of Thompson catching touchdown passes for 40, 50, 68 and 80 yards while playing for the Plant City High School Raiders.
“Ath(letic) Dreams do come true don’t wait go get it!!” Thompson posted on Twitter in February after he made the decision to commit to N.C. State.
Thompson and Brown are no longer enrolled at N.C. State, but they were not expelled, according to the university.
Doeren did not say how long Lyas, Collins and Moore will be suspended.
None of the five players or their parents could be reached Wednesday.
Moore was named the team’s player of the day Aug. 3.
“Isaiah Moore is the #PACKBALL player of the day for Practice #4! We absolutely love his effort!” Eddie Faulkner, N.C. State’s special teams coordinator, wrote on Twitter.
Moore told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia that he chose N.C. State based on a “gut feeling.”
“I went down there and felt really comfortable from the moment I stepped on campus,” he said. “It meant a lot that N.C. State believed in me.”
Lyas, the son of military parents, moved to Florida when he was in the fourth grade from Fayetteville, where his parents were stationed at nearby Fort Bragg, according to the website Big Country Preps. In a March 2016 interview with the website, he said he was interested in history, particularly the World War II era. He said he wanted to major in civil engineering in college.
Collins, a three-sport athlete in high school, was recruited by the University of Minnesota and Indiana University.
“I have committed to North Carolina state university,” he tweeted on July 19. “I would like to thank god my parents and my coaches.”
The alleged sexual assaults happened between 9:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. July 21 at Timber Hall, a student apartment building at Wolf Village near Western Boulevard.
Three women filed reports with campus police at 8:40 p.m. the next day, according to incident reports made public last month.
One of the cases is being investigated as a second-degree forcible rape after one woman told police the suspect had sexual intercourse with her after she was given alcoholic beverages and an unnamed drug, according an incident report.
Another case is also being investigated as second-degree rape. Alcohol was determined to not be a factor in that case or a sexual battery case, according to the incident reports.
The school’s Student-Athlete Code of Conduct says athletes “are among N.C. State’s most visible ambassadors and are expected to act with integrity at all times.”
In addition to being subjected to random drug tests, student-athletes must participate in alcohol and drug seminars sponsored by the athletics department.
They are also expected to abide by state laws regarding alcohol.
Campus police are working with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether criminal charges will be filed.
District Attorney Lorrin Freeman on Wednesday said her office is continuing to review evidence, including hours of recorded interviews.
N.C. State police Maj. David Kelly declined to say whether the women underwent rape kits, but Freeman said “forensic evidence relevant to a sexual assault case was collected.”
“Once our review is complete prior to making any decisions, we will be meeting with the alleged victims in this case,” Freeman said. “We understand that this case is of high import to the N.C. State community and many others and are working diligently to conclude our work in a timely fashion.”
Meanwhile, the university is conducting a Title IX investigation. Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex for federally funded programs and activities. Allegations of sexual assault are covered under Title IX.
“The Title IX investigation is completely separate from any actions Athletics might take, and separate from the criminal investigation,” said university spokesman Fred Hartman.
Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald