A year ago, just before coaching his first football game at N.C. State, Dave Doeren spoke to the Raleigh Sports Club about expectations, the passion of Wolfpack fans and the need of “winning the day.”
A year later, after going 3-9 in his first season, after failing to win an ACC game, Doeren spoke a lot Wednesday about dealing with adversity and disappointment.
Doeren, casually dressed in a red golf shirt, talked of bringing Special Operations Marines last month to mentally and physically challenge his players. More recently, he brought in motivational speaker Eric Thomas, who grew up in poverty, to address the team.
“He’s a really fiery guy,” Doeren said. “He was a homeless kid that dropped out of high school, lived in abandoned buildings and ate out of trash cans for two years.”
Doeren said Thomas later received his GED, graduated from Michigan State, earned a master’s degree and is close to completing his doctorate. Thomas also provided a quote that has stuck with Doeren and one he wants his team to remember:
“In order to take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime, you have to do it within the lifetime of the opportunity.”
Said Doeren: “I think the urgency that’s in that message is one all of us should try to live with … and to make the most out of every day.”
In his 35-minute sports-club session, Doeren commented on several topics, from the quarterback situation to nonconference scheduling to the possible inequities that could be caused by giving the “Power 5” conferences more rule-making autonomy.
Doeren noted he liked the work of quarterback Jacoby Brissett in camp and is comfortable making him the designated starter for the Aug. 30 opener against Georgia Southern.
“Last year at this time I still didn’t know who our starter was,” he said. “We brought in a transfer (Brandon Mitchell) and had another kid (Pete Thomas) and neither one of them were lighting it up in camp. And the guy we picked (Mitchell) ended up getting hurt in the second drive of the first game.”
While praising Brissett, a transfer from Florida who sat out last season, Doeren also got in a few good words about Jalan McClendon, a freshman out of Charlotte’s West Mecklenburg High.
“He’s got the best arm on our team,” Doeren said. “He’s 6-6 and can sling it. He’s a very talented guy.”
The nonconference schedule – Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, Presbyterian and South Florida – generally is considered among the weakest in the ACC this season. Doeren pointed out the Wolfpack would play Notre Dame in 2016 and 2017 and has signed home-and-away arrangements to face Mississippi State and West Virginia.
“It all depends on what’s available to you,” he said. “You’ve got five power conferences all fighting to play the same type of teams. It’s not as easy as people think.”
Doeren, with a smile, said life in the “stacked” Atlantic Division in the ACC is decidedly different than in the Coastal Division, which he called the “easy side” of the ACC.
Neither side proved easy for the Wolfpack last season as it dropped all eight ACC games, but Doeren said he liked the fight in his players, was determined to make his mark in recruiting and believes the competition in the offseason and fall camp will make for a better team.
Doeren said he recently relayed a story to the players about Florence May Chadwick, a renowned swimmer who in 1952 attempted to swim the 26 miles from Catalina Island to Long Beach on the California coast. It was shark-filled water, he said, and riflemen rode in boats to shoot any that came too close to Chadwick. Then a dense fog rolled in.
“Imagine sharks around you, and gunfire and trying to keep your focus,” Doeren said. “That’s tough. She decided she had had enough. She got out of the water. First time in her life she had quit.
“Little did she know she was only 200 yards from the finish line. But she couldn’t see it. That taught her a very valuable lesson, that sometimes it’s right in front of you and you have to keep fighting. You don’t quit and you stay persistent. … We’re trying to teach our guys those kinds of values.”