Irving, a first-team All-ACC performer, was severely injured in an automobile accident on June 28, 2009, suffering a compound fracture of the tibia, a broken rib, a punctured lung and a separated shoulder. The fracture of the tibia required a surgical insertion of an intermedullary nail to allow proper alignment and healing of the bone. Irving underwent a lengthy rehab due to the severity of his injuries and the quantity of body parts that were affected.
Following an extensive rehab regimen, Irving was able to return to the practice field for spring drills, where he also moved to a new position: middle linebacker. He has enjoyed a spectacular senior season, leading the Wolfpack with 93 total tackles and serving as the captain of an NC State defense that ranks third nationally in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss. Irving ranks fourth nationally in tackles for loss with 19 and has 5.5 quarterback sacks for a loss of 34 yards.
Irving set an NCAA FBS single-game record for most tackles for loss earlier this season with eight against Wake Forest. Prior to that he was named the Walter Camp National Defensive player of the Week for his play in the Pack's win at Georgia Tech, in which he registered a career-best 16 total tackles.
"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," said NC State head coach Tom O'Brien. "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."
Irving is the fourth NC State student-athlete to be honored with the Piccolo Award, joining former teammate Toney Baker, who received the award last year, Scott Adell (1991) and Ralph Stringer (1977), as past Wolfpack honorees.
The Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1972 in memory of the late Brian Piccolo to the "most courageous" football player in the ACC.