The Nubian Message was able to interview Emeka Emezie, one of the most accomplished Wide Receivers in NC State’s history. Emezie opened up to us about his life not only as a student-athlete but as a person on campus.
Nubian Message: After all the success you’ve had from attending 3 bowl games and having top ten stats in NC State’s history, what helped you decide to return for another football season with the wolfpack?
Emeka Emezie: The community. NC State has a great fan base, great coaches, and teammates along with being around people that I love. So ultimately, being able to return for one more year was a no-brainer for me.
NM: What did older wide receivers like Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Myers and other veterans mean to you when you were a younger player on the team?
EE: I feel like Kelvin and Jacobi [have] two different types of play styles. But Kelvin taught [me] discipline, hard work, and consistency … Jakobi was looser with how the game would come to him and I feel like that’s so true to life in general — allowing things to come to you. Sometimes you have to be disciplined and work hard but there are other times on the football field where you can’t plan what’s gonna happen. [So] no matter how hard you work… you have to adjust how the game goes. Just like life.
NM: As one of the more senior players on the team, do you see yourself as a leader? If so, what is your leadership style like?
EE: I feel like… whatever happens we are able to come in and work — I feel like I’ve been through a lot of adversity the last year and the guys have seen that. I always try to have a great attitude no matter what and try to lead the young boys and give them positive words or whatever it may be. Just trying to instill small things because you never know what’s gonna stick.
NM: What is the general sense of morale around the team? What do you think of the high expectations coming into the 2021 football season?
EE: Honestly, [it’s] just get the work done. It’s a day-to-day process. I don’t really look at what they project in us, me, whoever. I forget about all the outside noise and try to focus on what needs to be done.
NM: You’ve been named to the Fred Biletnikoff watch list for best receiver in collegiate football. So would you say that you apply the same team logic to your personal expectations for the season?
EE: Yeah. I feel like… [I’m] just taking care of my business. I understand what I have to do every day and those things only come if you take care of the day-to-day. I forgot about [the watch list] honestly, not in a way of arrogance or anything like that. I just try not to ponder on success or failure. It’s really just … working hard — you gotta know what needs to be done. If you are thinking about the future, you miss out on the present and you’re not gonna be… the best version of yourself.
NM: Recently when Harmon brought up a play you created and gave you bragging rights over a teammate, I heard you said you get joy from bringing others joy because it’s about more than you. Can you expand on that perspective?
EE: I don’t play the game for myself. If there’s an opportunity to give back I always give back, in whatever case it may be. I just love watching the [game] film and seeing the fans’ reaction from when they are sitting down to when they get on their feet. Stuff like that is really what gets me going. I feel like I play for my friends, close friends [and] my family back home. [They] really are the biggest things and [are] dear to my heart. It’s not really about me. I’ve learned if I play for myself there isn’t much joy in that. But when I play for other people, play for god and people bigger than me, that’s when I have the most fun and success.
LIFE AS A STUDENT-ATHLETE
NM: How would you describe your time as a student-athlete at NC State University?
EE: You don’t have the same lifestyle other students may have with the responsibility of being a student-athlete. You have to carry yourself a different way. You also are able to have the fun you make. You are able to make friends and what not but keeping the priorities are the main thing and not losing yourself. The first years here [at NC State] I really wasn’t trying to make friends — I spent a lot of time inside the stadium late at night. So I kinda did sacrifice going out and making friends for football and what’s important. It’s been a great time. I feel like the people I’ve met pushed me towards that. You attract what you are determined for so I was attracted to Kelvin. You know, I was attracted to different people that spent their time in here because that’s what I was working towards.
NM: How have you grown?
EE: I feel like I’m two different people now. You come in and expect one thing and another thing happens. A lot of different things happen but you have to adjust and change. This past year I’ve probably changed the most. I’ve just accepted it and [am] just growing up really.
NM: In spring 2019, school and all activities stopped. How did this affect your life?
EE: It was crazy, one of the craziest things ever. I was in class and you’re told to go home and we might stop for a couple of weeks. Next thing you know you’re at home for however long. In that time, I was able to spend a lot of time on football. I had somebody I was with that helped me stay focused at the time. That time was really good to self-reflect and figure out who you are as a person. Find the blessing in everything that happens.
NM: The NCAA has decided to implement the NIL (Name, Image, Likeness). Since this decision, you’ve partnered with Hilinski’s Hope, an organization that fights for the mental health of student athletes, and, everybody’s favorite, Bojangles. Why was Hilinski’s Hope an organization you wanted to partner with?
EE: It’s something very important to me, mental health is huge, and being aware of your mental. If you are going through things try to take a step back and just focus on your mental health. And that [is] something I focus on [and] I struggle a lot personally… I’ve learned it’s not just me, it’s everybody in this world. It’s not just sports, everybody has their own [thing]. So just try to take a step back and focus on your mental [health] and from there, things will fall in line… Work on yourself first before other things… I understand how much my mental [health] is to me and affects me so being able to spread that word back out and help other people and give [support to] such a great organization… dear to my heart was huge to me.
NM: And how do you think the NIL has or will impact you and other student athletes?
EE: It’s a great way to give back, express yourself and be creative. I’ve been able to work on some things as well, but it’s just a great way to express myself and show it to different people… They don’t get to see our day to day lives. So being able to give back a part of our mind and what we think [and] do is a great way to give back to the fans.
NM: We spoke about your leadership within the team. How does being a public figure impact leadership in the community?
EE: Yeah, I feel like carrying yourself the right way is the biggest thing [and] trying to give back to the community. I wanna stay involved in Raleigh… The biggest thing to anybody is… just reach out. I’m a human being at the end of the day, so please reach out to me. If you have anything you’re going through, whatever that case may be, and you want help or me to be around I really wanna be there. I don’t feel like enough people reach out. I love when they send a text after the game… that’s awesome to me. So just reach out… to talk or connect. That’d be really cool.
NM: As we close this interview and you prepare to finish your athletic career at NC State, I’d like to ask what is important to you?
EE: The biggest [thing] right now is perseverance. There is a lot that I’ve personally gone through. Just to be here right now is a blessing in itself… It’s crazy I won’t be able to put on a NC State jersey after the season. And that’s not gonna hit me till it happens. At the end of the day I’m blessed, so so blessed that I’ve been able to experience what I experience here and just thankful for everybody I’ve met here. It’s been amazing so I truly just thank everybody.