Former N.C. State walk-on shrugs off injury ‘setback’

CB Charlie Twitty (33) works against WR Josh Sessoms (37) at N.C. State football practice in Raleigh on August 12, 2015.
CB Charlie Twitty (33) works against WR Josh Sessoms (37) at N.C. State football practice in Raleigh on August 12, 2015.

Not every story in preseason football practice is about a fight for a starting job, finding a backup quarterback or a new defensive coordinator changing schemes.

There’s also the story of the player who once was on a college scholarship but isn’t now, who once believed he was in line to get in games and make a difference, only to have an injury take that away from him

N.C. State’s Charlie Twitty is such a player. Twitty is a former walk-on from Raleigh’s Enloe High, a defensive back who worked his way up from the scout team, earned a scholarship last year and was on the verge of playing meaningful minutes before injuring his right anterior cruciate ligament in practice.

Some would say Twitty, a red-shirt junior, is starting over this year. He doesn’t like that phrase and all it implies, saying, “It’s just a little bit of a setback.”

When wide receivers Gavin Locklear of Apex and Ben Grazen of Cary recently were awarded scholarships by Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren after a practice, Twitty was among those celebrating and hopping on the pile. Last August, he was one of the walk-ons given a scholarship by Doeren, providing an unexpected thrill for him and his family.

“It was exciting for everybody,” Twitty said. “My parents always told me to keep my head down, and that’s pretty much what I was doing (last year). When the scholarship came, it was really confirmation that what they said was true. Keep your head down and work, and good things will come to you.

“That’s what I’m trying to do this year ... keep working and stay healthy.”

Twitty, a cousin of former Pack offensive lineman Leroy Harris, was used on special teams in the 2014 season-opener against Georgia Southern. Safety Hakim Jones said Twitty was to be a part of the dime package as a sixth defensive back in the second game against Old Dominion, a team that passed on nearly every down.

“He’s a great athlete,” Jones said. “I didn’t even know he was a walk-on until they awarded him a scholarship because you can’t tell the difference.”

But in practice before the ODU game, Twitty took a wrong step, fell and felt something go in the knee.

“It bent in a bad direction,” he said. “I stood up and started to walk a little bit, and I felt my knee wobble.”

A few days later, Twitty learned the ACL injury would end his season. He began the grueling months of rehab, although he did come to games to be on the sideline and offer support.

“My parents never let me get down on myself,” he said. “They always told me to keep my head up and not let something like that get the best of me. And my teammates were there for me. No negative words, just encouragement.

“Even though I wasn’t able to be on the field, I was happy to see us as a team do what we were capable of doing.”

He’s a kid who did everything right.

Pack cornerback coach George Barlow on Charlie Twitty

Twitty was not able to participate in spring practice and said he was not cleared medically until the first session of summer school. It was finally time to “give it a go,” he said, smiling, and he was ready when fall camp began.

“Twitty is one of my favorites on the team because I have a tendency to root for the underdog,” cornerbacks coach George Barlow said. “He’s a kid who did everything right. When he went down, we felt bad for him. He had worked so hard to get to the point where, at a minimum, he was going to play a lot on special teams.

“The type of quality kid he is, he’s handled adversity really well. He’s turned it into a positive, working his butt off with the rehab. Now he’s back out there, and he’s slowly putting himself into position where he can be able to help us. There’s no quit in him.”

Jones said he has an admiration for the Pack’s walk-ons, who must shoulder the cost of attending school and work football demands around their academic schedules.

“A lot of walk-ons have to quit and concentrate on academics,” Jones said. “I have a lot of respect for our walk-ons and Twitty, I’ve never seen him down. He definitely believes he can come back and be the player he was – better, actually.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip