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August 5, 2010Head coach Tom O'Brien called his return to the defense as important as anyone on that side of the ball. Defensive line coach Keith Willis once called the then-rising redshirt freshman a potential future All-ACC performer.
They were not talking about fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving, but rather discussing redshirt junior defensive end Jeff Rieskamp.
Rieskamp, listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds but claiming to be 245 pounds, missed the 2009 season with a painful sports hernia. The injury was not diagnosed until Rieskamp visited a specialist in Philadelphia who was able to do an MRI from a different angle.
The treatment was a painful surgery and what Rieskamp called a "trying" rehab process.
"After that surgery it was hard even going to the bathroom. It was tough walking around," Rieskamp noted.
Rieskamp cannot attribute his injury to any particular moment, but he laments that it cost him the 2009 season during which NC State's defense struggled mightily to contain opposing offenses.
"All I've known all my life is football, and sitting out a year just killed me," Rieskamp said. "Sitting on the sideline, watching my teammates on the field play just knowing that I trained all the way up until the season and couldn't play. It killed me. It's all behind me now, just looking forward to play this year. I'm ready to go."
Rieskamp was cleared to participate in the summer conditioning program, and working out had never felt so good.
"I love it. I love it," Rieskamp said. "I love training. I just love working. It's been great."
He took the next step Tuesday afternoon when he was back on the field, and Rieskamp was lining up with the first string defense ahead of fifth-year senior defensive end Michael Lemon.
"It feels great," Rieskamp said. "It's been a long time since on the field. First practice looked really good. Just looking forward to this year. Team's looking really good, just can't wait to play."
As a redshirt freshman, Rieskamp started two of the 12 games and was credited with 21 tackles, including 3.5 for losses and a pair of sacks. He also added six quarterback hurries. He has not lost the memories of his rookie campaign at NC State.
"You don't lose it," Rieskamp said. "You sit out a year but you don't lose the sensation of getting on the field, the rush that you feel when you bust through the line and you knock somebody out. I love it. I get to do it again this year. I can't wait."
Rieskamp will be counted upon to help ease the loss of Willie Young, one of NC State's best ever pass rushers. Young had eight sacks last season, twice as many as the next nearest Wolfpacker and a third of the team's total number of sacks in 2009. Rieskamp though is ready for the challenge. He feels that pass rushing is his specialty.
"Our whole d-line is strong this year," Rieskamp said. "Willie is a good friend of mine. It's hard losing him, but we got people coming back. We got people stepping up, so I don't think it should be that much of a void.
"I feel like I get off the ball well. I feel like I just have a certain intensity to just get to the quarterback, just want to complete the play, just want to do it."
If Rieskamp is able to bring heat on the quarterback, he will quickly start reminding NC State fans of the promising future they saw from him in 2008 but may have forgotten.
"If they have forgotten, I'll bring it back," Rieskamp said. "That's all I have to say about that. Our defense is really strong, and I just can't wait to play with the guys again."
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