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When Kelvin Harmon left after his junior season to enter NFL draft in 2018, his understudy Emeka Emezie inherited his role as NC State's go-to receiver.

Emezie also decided to take over Harmon's jersey No. 3 in honor of his friend and former teammate.

Things didn't go exactly as planned, though.

While Emezie did lead the Wolfpack in receptions with 56 and receiving yards with 576, he scored only two touchdowns in a junior season that fell short of expectations. 

Some of that can be attributed to the revolving door that saw three different quarterbacks start games in 2019. But Emezie shouldered an equal part of the blame himself.

So instead of trying to be like somebody else, the star wide receiver has decided to "86" the idea of wearing Harmon's number and return to his old jersey for what he hopes will be a rebound senior season.


"It was my idea," Emezie said after Thursday's spring practice workout. "I thought to myself, respect for Kelvin. He did his thing at three. But I was doing my own thing at 86. So I'll just do my thing. Different mindset." 

Emezie thought he had the right mindset going into last season, but admits now that he didn't really know what it took to be a leader both on and off the field.

It's a lesson he said he has taken to heart during the offseason, especially in his work ethic as he prepares to help the Wolfpack bounce back from a disappointing 4-8 season and show the way for a young receiving group bolstered by the arrival of five incoming freshmen.

Part of that commitment, he said, is trying to be the first one in the building ready to work at 5 a.m. every morning 

"I had to change my attitude, change the way I came in," he said. "When I went over the long break after not getting into a bowl game, I had to really look at myself and say 'you can run away from your problem or you can attack it.

"So I came in every day, catching 600 balls or whatever I need to, just practicing every day. If I drop one, it's about your mentality, just next one. So don't worry about everything that's going on. Stay positive in yourself."

Emezie said he's been encouraged by the way his team has looked during the first week of spring practice and is impressed with new offensive coordinator Tim Beck.

"It's been amazing, honestly, with the new coaches," he said. "It's been amazing. It's been really, really fun."