Wolfpack reaping the rewards of Gallaspy’s persistence

The senior running back is a major reason NC State is on the verge of a 10-win season heading into its Gator Bowl game with Texas A&M

Reggie Gallaspy is congratulated by his teammates after an 82-yard run against ECU that put him over 1,000 yards for the season (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

  Of all the awards and trophies Reggie Gallaspy has earned over the course of his football career, his most meaningful isn’t one that can be polished or placed proudly on a shelf.

  The NC State running back received it during the fourth quarter of his team’s regular season finale against East Carolina, when after an 82-yard run that put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, the crowd at Carter-Finley Stadium chanted his name in unison as he trotted off the field in triumph.

   “I never imagined that. It was a special moment,” Gallaspy said after the Wolfpack’s 58-3 rout of the Pirates on Dec. 1. “There was a lot of highs and lows in the season for me and throughout my whole career. It’s just amazing how everything ended up. It’s a blessing.”

  Gallaspy will have one more chance to add to his record setting season tonight when State takes on No. 19 Texas A&M at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

  No matter what happens against the Aggies, the 5-foot-11, 235-pound senior from High Point will end his college career on a high note.

  Gallaspy has run for 1,012 yards on 214 carries this season, making him the Wolfpack’s third straight 1,000-yard rusher. He’s also scored 19 touchdowns, breaking the single-season school record set by T.A. McClendon all the way back in 2002.

  Those are the kind of numbers the former four-star recruit expected to put up when he came to State following a senior season at Southern Guilford High School in which he led the state in rushing while getting into the end zone 52 times.

  But Gallaspy’s college career didn’t exactly go as planned thanks to a series of injuries and the presence of future NFL backs Matt Dayes and Nyheim Hines on the the depth chart ahead of him.

  The perseverance he showed in overcoming his physical obstacles and waiting patiently for his chance to shine hasn’t just been a personal triumph. According coach Dave Doeren, it’s also been an inspiration that has helped put the Wolfpack (9-3) on the verge of only its second double-digit win season in school history heading into today’s matchup against A&M.

  “It’s like he’s become the spirit of our team with everything that he’s gone through,” Doeren said after the ECU game. “Going through what he’s gone through and waiting his turn, just being a really, really great human being to people. He’s so tough, I think everybody loves that about him.”

  Even with all he’s accomplished, things didn’t exactly come easy for Gallaspy this season.

  Slowed by offseason knee and gallbladder surgeries, he averaged just 55 yards per game through the first four weeks.

  He finally began to gain momentum with a 104-yard, two-touchdown effort in a 28-23 win against Boston College. He then finished with a flourish, averaging 6.6 yards on just 11 carries in a lopsided win at Louisville on Nov. 17, scoring the winning touchdown in overtime at North Carolina on Nov. 24 and rushing for a career-high 220 yards against ECU.

  Over the final three weeks of the regular season Gallaspy was a prolific as any back in the country while rushing for 422 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. It’s a performance that helped him earn third-team All-ACC recognition.

  “Like I told Coach Drink and all my teammates at the beginning of the season, 1,000 yards and all that stuff don’t matter to me,” Gallaspy said, referring to former offensive coordinator and newly hired Appalachian State coach Eliah Drinkwitz. “I want to do whatever it takes to help the team win and we’ll worry about the accolades at the end. That was my mindset the whole year.

  “I sprained my ankle, my knee hurt and everything like that. But I was just like keep fighting and help the team win. Now I’m just reaping what I sowed.”

  As much of a team-first player as Gallaspy is, there was at least one moment in which his mind began wandering to a personal accomplishment.

  It happened early in the fourth quarter of his final game at Carter-Finley, with Sate comfortably ahead of its in-state rival.

  “That last drive, I knew I needed about 60 yards,” Gallaspy said of his quest for 1,000. “It just opened up and I just took it.”

  He actually needed 70, but he got that and 12 more for good measure with one inspired sprint around left end — leading to the serenade of Reggie … Reggie … Reggie as he trotted back to the bench.

   “I think Reggie really deserved that,” quarterback Ryan Finley said of his workhorse back. “He’s gone through some things in his career and for him to finish it off like that is impressive. We’re all really proud of him. I have a lot of respect for Reggie. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.”