Top 10 of the 2010s: No. 4, Nate's Great Comeback

Brett Friedlander

As we come down the homestretch of the final 10 days of the 2010s, SI Wolfpack Maven takes a look back at the past 10 years in NC State sports and counts down the Wolfpack's top 10 moments of the decade.

Today is Dec. 28, 2019.

With four days remaining, it's time to check in on Moment No. 4: The remarkeable comeback from a near-fatal car accident of All-ACC linebacker Nate Irving:.

Irving established himself as a tough, tenacious and determined linebacker during a 2008 season in which he finished with 80 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and four interceptions -- including one for a touchdown against Clemson.

Those qualities proved to be valuable -- and perhaps life-saving -- off the field as well when Irving was nearly killed in a car accident driving back to campus from his home in Duplin County a month before the start of preseason practice in 2009.

Irving later said he was "blessed to be alive" after suffering a collapsed lung, broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and a compound fracture in his leg. But he not only survived the crash, he worked his way back to health and all the way back to return to football in 2010.

And he was even better than before.

He led the Wolfpack with 93 total tackles while serving as the captain of an NC State defense that ranked third nationally in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss. He had four sacks and 19 tackles for losses.

Eight of those TFLs came in a game against Wake Forest, setting an FBS single-game record. He was also named the Walter Camp National Defensive player of the Week for his 16-tackle performance in a win at Georgia Tech.

His comeback and the performance that followed it earned Irving the ACC's Brian Piccolo Award as its most courageous player, an honor he shared with Boston College linebacker and cancer survivor Brian Herzlich.

He went on to be drafted in the third round by the Denver Broncos and played five seasons in the NFL.

"One of the most rewarding things I've experienced as a coach has been seeing Nate Irving come back so strong and enjoy so much success," then-coach Tom O'Brien said at the time. "He has been a tremendous leader for our team this year with his play on the field and his attitude off the field and is one of the reasons the 2010 team will always be a special one for me."

Top 10 NC State Sports Moments of he 2010s

No. 10: Dennis Smith Jr, and the Wolfpack upset Duke at Cameron

No. 9: State's extra inning tradition at the ACC baseball tournament

No. 8: The revitalization of Reynolds Coliseum

No. 7: Women's basketball 21-game winning streak to start 2018-19

No. 6: Swimmer Ryan Held's gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics

No. 5: Wrestler Nick Gwiazdowski's back-to-back national championships

No 4. Football star Nate Irving's remarkable comeback from a near fatal car wreck

Don't forget to check back on Sunday for moment No. 3

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