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August 12, 2010The last time redshirt junior running back Curtis Underwood carried the football was against South Florida on Sept. 27, 2008.
Underwood rushed for 17 yards on four carries during the rain-soaked 41-10 loss to the Bulls at Carter-Finley Stadium. Underwood tends to remember his other performance against Clemson as more memorable.
The then sophomore rushed for a career-high 46 yards on 11 carries, plus three catches for 18 yards in a 27-9 loss at Clemson on Sept. 13. Underwood was filling in for injured running backs Jamelle Eugene and Toney Baker that year, but his role was reduced when Eugene returned.
"The atmosphere there [at Clemson] was just great with all the fans screaming and yelling," Underwood said. "It was really, really hot. The coaches gave me an opportunity to play, and I guess I took advantage of it in certain ways."
Underwood put in the hard work last year, but wasn't rewarded with playing in a game. He's looking forward to hearing the home crowd cheer him on.
"It's a little antsy feeling," Underwood said. "I just want to get out there with the team, and hopefully, produce some wins with the guys. It will probably be electrifying because the atmosphere [at Carter-Finley Stadium] is unbelievable. I just can't wait."
Underwood finished the season rushing for 116 yards and one touchdown on 32 carries, plus four catches for 28 his sophomore season. He elected to redshirt last year to give him a chance to be a key cog for the Wolfpack for two years instead of one. The 5-foot-11, 216-pounder is about the same size as a year ago, but he's sporting a different body.
"Just a little hard work, but everybody is working hard," Underwood said. "It's a way different 220 [current weight]. It's a little slimmer and less body [composition]. Everything is in shape and tightened up now."
Underwood and sophomore James Washington are competing for the starting spot against Western Carolina on Sept. 4. NCSU coach Tom O'Brien essentially said the duo are relatively even in the competition.
"We are both in there working and trying to work hard," Underwood said. "Coach knows who he has in his mind who will be the starter. It's up to him to judge at the end of the day. All I know is that all the running backs bring their lunch pail and hard hat to work every day."
Underwood participated in NC State's scrimmage Monday, but O'Brien didn't divulge individual rushing statistics. The Wolfpack rushed for 92 yards on 55 carries.
"It was a lot of hard hitting and competing out there against the defense," Underwood said. "Everything looked good. Everybody is still a little rusty still. That's a part of the grind of camp."
Underwood, who missed the Kay Yow Spring Game on April 17 due to injury, was able to get some action against a live defense for the first time since he rushed for 44 yards on 14 attempts, and three catches for 28 during the first spring scrimmage April 3.
"It was really physical and the defense was flying around and hitting everything that was moving," said Underwood about Monday's scrimmage. "Our offensive line was creating a new line of scrimmage. There is a lot of learning still to do, and we are ready to go again."
Underwood had to think about when was the last time he really got hit hard by a defender.
[The last time] I really, really got hit and where I felt slow getting up, was probably in a game," Underwood said. "The guys around here aren't trying to kill their own teammates. I haven't felt a game-like hit yet. It wasn't that brutal for me [Monday]. Everybody was still flying around, and these guys were form tackling."
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