Raleigh, N.C. — NC State running back Reggie Gallaspy Jr. is the team‘s leading returning rusher and through four games, he‘s upheld that standard and his senior status by pacing the Pack with 228 yards on the ground.
“As a senior running back and me waiting my time, patiently waiting, that‘s what I expect,” Gallaspy said.
Gallaspy has scored five touchdowns this season, accounting for more TDs than any player other than quarterback Ryan Finley (eight). The senior‘s scores all came on short-yard scenarios this year ( a touchdown of six yards versus JMU, one yard versus Georgia State, two one-yarders at Marshall and TD of two yards versus Virginia) as the back builds on the situations he‘s been most successful in, and the safest, over his career.
Offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz calls it a “dirty run,” and it‘s the type of play Gallaspy is somewhat known for — a battle for yardage through that can bang up a ball carrier on his way to extra yards — making bulldozing a point of pride for him.
“I take pride in it, yes I do, that‘s how I‘m built, that‘s the type of running back I am,” Gallaspy said. “But I like the green grass as well. Ewhatever it takes to get the first down or go score, it d(oes)n‘t matter. Everybody likes the green grass, that‘s where you show your ability, make your plays and things of that nature.”
Short-yard situations and a knack for carrying defenders are a balancing act. After extra weight came with surgery in the offseason, the NCSU veteran had the body to carry a new nickname, too.
Strength and conditioning coach Dantonio “Thunder” Burnette began calling Gallaspy, “Reggie Bettis,” after Jerome Bettis during the spring of 2018 and it‘s a comparison that stuck.
“I was more a Reggie Bush fan growing up, I was lot smaller,” Gallaspy said. “I just took it on, plus (Bettis) is from Michigan and I‘m from Michigan as well.”
Dave Doeren recruited Gallaspy out of High Point, NC (Southern Guilford High School), after the RB moved to North Carolina from Flint, Michigan in 2008.
“The part that really pops out to me is how he was a real team player,” Gallaspy said of the six-time Pro Bowler‘s resume, which includes a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, an Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, Comeback Player of the Year Award and a Super Bowl Ring.
“When he was outside the field, he was the type of guy who told his second string running back what‘s there so that next guy can go out and play the same way, so he won‘t miss a beat. He was never really a selfish guy, he always made sure everybody was on the same key.
“I just like the type of person he was, I try to make myself look just like that. That‘s what I love about Jerome Bettis.”
Gallaspy became a father during the bye week of his sophomore season when his daughter, Aliah, was born in September.
“Now it comes to the point to where the money you do happen to get, you have to save it, make sure you start a fund for your daughter,” he said. “Make sure when you‘re going out to eat, not only get something for yourself but make sure that she is fed as well.”
The life change has significantly impacted the senior‘s ability to help lead a relatively young group of back at NC State.
“That helps my leadership, I helped like that helped me a lot on the football field. Now, I‘m more of a vocal leader than I was before,” Gallaspy said. “Now, I try my best and speak up when I see something that needs to be corrected or see something that somebody needs help with. I feel like me opening up more helps them see things not only how I see things as a 21-year-old but as a parent as well.”
Growing up, Gallaspy admits he and his friends didn‘t heed parents advice always. He believes being able to enforce some of the same ideas as a peer is another benefit to the team of his parenthood.
“Now, they‘ll say ‘Oh, ok,‘ because it‘s a 21-year-old telling you exactly the same thing your parents were telling you, so they‘ll be like ‘Ok, maybe I really should take that seriously.‘”
The biggest area of growth Gallaspy believes he‘s seen in himself is in his patience. As a young athlete on the Wolfpack roster, he grew weary of waiting behind more talented runners. At this point, he sees his waiting paying off and also recognizes the bigger benefit of slow progress in both his personal and playing life.
“A lot of the things that you want to happen quickly are not going to happen,” he said. “You want your child to be able to understand that ‘No, you can‘t do this,‘ but it‘s going to take time for them to realize. To translate it to me on the football field, it took me being patient with my time — I was behind Matt (Dayes), I was behind Shad(rach) Thornton, I ws behind Nyheim (Hines) — I was getting down on myself, really coming down on myself hard.
“Having a daughter taught me patience.”
As a freshman, Gallaspy had so many players ahead of him that had played.. now, “it‘s different,” he says. Experience-wise, the dynamic in the room is different than it has been in the last four seasons. Statistically, the unit is coming along game by game, improving yardage on the ground.
Gallaspy emphasizes the advantage of youth, pointing to the experience the group will have as more experienced sophomores and juniors in the future. He also sees clearly how his status as a veteran player and parent coincide in a way that he couldn‘t see coming when he was developing the skills he uses in both roles now.
“This is the year that needed that (patience), that‘s why I feel that a lot of things that happen, happen for a reason,” Gallaspy said. “Everything that has happened to me in the past has lead me to this situation now to be able to help the guys and be able to help lead.
“This situation was going to come up. Now I‘m here and able to deliver.”