The start of NC State football’s 2022 season is less than a month away, beginning with a tough road test against East Carolina on Sept. 3.
The expectations are at an all-time high for the Wolfpack as they try and snap a 42-year Atlantic Coast Conference title drought while housing a Heisman Trophy hopeful in quarterback Devin Leary.
But Leary isn’t the only NC State player that has found his name on postseason award watch lists. By the end of 2022, there could be several major award winners coming out of Raleigh.
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Quarterback Devin Leary
Leary was voted the ACC preseason Player of the Year, adding to a long list of accolades.
After setting a new school single-season record with 35 passing touchdowns and giving up only five interceptions in 2021, the redshirt junior has been named to the Walter Camp POY watch list as well as the watch lists for the Maxwell (most outstanding player) and Davey O’Brien Awards (nation’s best QB).
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Coach Dave Doeren
Entering his 10th season as coach, Doeren was named to the Dodd Trophy preseason watch list after leading the Wolfpack to a 9-3 record in 2021.
Doeren, who has posted more nine-win seasons than any coach in school history (three), ranks second among the longest-tenured coaches in program history and his 64 career wins is second only to Earle Edwards (77).
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Defensive tackle Cory Durden
Durden was named to the Lombardi Award watch list which goes to the best offensive or defensive lineman. He was also named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best interior lineman.
After transferring from Florida State before the 2021 season, Durden was named an All-ACC defensive lineman in 2022, starting the last seven games for the Wolfpack, tallying 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
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Linebacker Drake Thomas
Coming off a breakout season, Thomas has been highlighted as one of the top linebackers to watch in 2022.
He was named to the All-ACC preseason first team and added to the Bednarik Award watch list (best defensive player), the Butkus Award watch list (best LB) and the Nagurski Award list (also best defensive player).
Thomas was named to the Athlon Sports’ 2022 preseason All-American third team after leading the Wolfpack with 99 tackles, six sacks and three interceptions. He led the ACC with 10.8 per game, becoming the first Wolfpack player to do so since 2000.
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Linebacker Payton Wilson
Coming off a season-ending injury and shoulder surgery, Wilson’s reputation still preceded him coming into 2022.
Wilson was named to the Bednarik Award watch list, the All-ACC preseason first team and Athlon Sports’ preseason All-American second team.
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Long snapper Joe Shimko
Shimko was named to the Patrick Mannelly Award watch list given to the best long snapper in the country.
Entering his fourth season with the Wolfpack, Shimko has never been responsible for a bad snap on 174 punts and 180 field goals and extra points.
That’s 354 perfect snaps over three years and 4,050 yards — 15 yards a punt, eight for FGs and XPs — that a football leaving his hands has traveled without a mistake. This summer, Shimko was the only NC State player listed on Phil Steele’s 2022 Preseason All-American first team and will be a favorite to win the Patrick Mannelly Award for the nation’s top long snapper.
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Center Grant Gibson
Coming into his fourth season as the Wolfpack’s starting center, Gibson was named the Rimington Trophy watch list given to the best center in the country.
Gibson was also named to the 2022 All-ACC preseason first team and has started the last 35 games.
Tight than Chris Toudle
Some awards are won on the field and others off it.
Toudle was named to the 2022 Wuerffell Trophy watch list for his achievement in community service.
Toudle has found a variety of ways to make a difference in the community. He worked as a volunteer at Partnership Elementary School, helping to mentor several students. One of the teachers commented that Toudle’s contribution was a lasting and meaningful one to those students.
He also organized a camp for kids, bringing in college athletes from across North Carolina and Virginia to not only teach football but also to hold a social event for the surrounding community. He helped organize free food and games and even raised money for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America at the event.
David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.