Gardner-Webb's Stan Doolittle isn't the type to run away from a challenge - or a 240-pound defensive lineman. So it's not likely the 6-foot-3, 225-pound quarterback will be intimidated when the Bulldogs' football team visits Raleigh on Saturday to play N.C. State.
Doolittle, a senior who starred at Ninety Six (S.C.) High and was most valuable player in the 2005 Shrine Bowl, plays with the aggressiveness of a linebacker. Ask teammates, and the words frequently used to describe him are hardly glamorous.
Rugged. Tough. Intense.
Last week, en route to a 27-20 victory against Western Carolina, Doolittle threw for two touchdowns as the Bulldogs raced to a 20-0 lead. When the Catamounts rallied, it was Doolittle who doused their come-from-behind hopes, tucking the ball and plowing over would-be tacklers.
It left him playing much of the second half with both nostrils stuffed with cotton to stop bleeding. One hit by a Catamounts defender separated Doolittle from his helmet. Another left Gardner-Webb coach Ken Patton worried his quarterback might have a concussion.
"It ended up that he just got his bell rung," Patton said.
The performance earned him Big South Conference Player of the Week and accolades from N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien.
"He can pull the ball down and run, and he actually attacks people," said O'Brien, whose Wolfpack is 1-1. "I mean, the other night he's trying to run some guys over. ... He has some size and bulk behind him. He does a nice job making decisions and does a good job pulling it down. As I said, he didn't run out of bounds. He ran into a guy Saturday night."
The collisions accentuate the rugged, tough and intense description. Doolittle said he is far less concerned with looking good than getting good results.
What he lacks in flash he seems to make up for with resourcefulness.
"I like to mix it up," he said. "I'd love to stand back in the pocket all day and throw for a bunch of yards, but if I have to throw for 100 yards and run for 100 yards for us to win a game, I'll do that, too."
Doolittle isn't about to run away from too many tacklers because of his 4.7-second speed in the 40-yard dash. But, Patton says, he's picking his times when to tuck the ball and run.
"He's not fast, and he doesn't have great arm strength," Patton said. "But he's a leader. He manages the game. The team has confidence in him. He has all the intangibles you could want."
Especially pleasing to Patton is that his quarterback doesn't turn the ball over. The Bulldogs are 2-0 largely because they have but one turnover.
Doolittle, who hasn't thrown an interception this season, is Gardner-Webb's most accurate career passer, connecting on 62 percent of his throws. He's thrown for 512 yards and three touchdowns this season and has 3,434 career passing yards.
He has extra motivation to play well against the Wolfpack. In last year's near-upset of Georgia Tech - when the Yellow Jackets claimed a 10-7 victory - Doolittle was knocked from the game with a thumb injury. He expects to be around until the end of Saturday's game.
"I know we'll have to elevate our level of play," he said. "They're higher-level athletes there. They have more depth. It'll be a great challenge for us. But I know we want to win just as badly as they do."