July 22, 2021
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
NC State Wolfpack
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Payton.
Q. Grant touched on it, you work out, so many leaders in the room. What is different this off-season?
PAYTON WILSON: I think like Grant said, not many people -- nobody's ever had to go through COVID like we did, like everybody did in the country last year. I think it's something that not pushed us further away as a team but brought us closer together. It brought a lot of different leaders out. People had to step up. They had to become leaders.
We got people bike Grant, Devin. On the defensive side of the ball, we have some of the best leaders I've ever seen like Isaiah Moore, Drake Thomas. The leadership varies throughout the team. Like Grant said, it's not just one person talking all the time. Everybody throughout the team has the same mission, the same goal, and we're all on the same page.
Q. You played a lot of games with pain last year but still led the ACC in tackles. How is your health? What drives you to play this game no matter what?
PAYTON WILSON: I'm actually 100% healthy. I'm healthier than I've ever been since the beginning of high school. Doctors and the trainers did an excellent job of getting me back.
I think these injuries, the reason that I play the way I do, the way I play so hard, is because I know this game can be taken away from me in some simple play. My knee could be gone, my shoulder could be gone. Every play I want to go out there, I want to make that play. I want my teammates to know I'm putting everything on the line for them because I would want them to do the same for me.
Q. What was it like playing last season with basically cardboard cutouts in the stands? How much does having a full house add to the experience and help you, especially as hard as you play?
PAYTON WILSON: Like Devin said, it was weird last year. The first couple of games, nobody's cheering. You could hear everybody on the field. You can hear your coaches talking to you. It had its pros and its cons.
Having everybody back in the stadium, playing in front of Wolf Pack Nation is going to be awesome. Having the band, my parents out there, that means the world to me. They couldn't come to some games last year. I play for them, I play for God. Having everybody out there is just going to be awesome.
Q. You mentioned Isaiah and Drake a couple minutes ago. What can you say about that linebacker corps, your decision to return, what the three of you bring to the table not just for NC State but for the ACC?
PAYTON WILSON: I mean, I'm here today representing us. But Drake and Isaiah, they make the thing up. Drake and Isaiah are very smart players, they make me who I am. They help me day in and day out learning the game. Our linebacker corps is very deep. We have a guy like Vi Jones, who is a game changer. Young guys coming in that will make a huge impact. Caden and Jordan Poole. We're so close together, it's almost like I'm out there playing with my family.
Q. What is it about NC State that you love so much?
PAYTON WILSON: The coaches and the atmosphere. Coach Doeren is an amazing person. He makes all of us be the best that we can be. He teaches us to chase two dreams: he helps us achieve academically and athletically. One of the main reasons is I love my family so much. I really didn't want to leave them. NC State gave me every opportunity that I needed.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports