Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pack's Eugene knows Orange Bowl history

The first college football game N.C. State tailback Jamelle Eugene attended was at the Orange Bowl in 2002.

Eugene watched from the opposite end zone as Xavier Beitia’s field goal attempt missed wide left and Miami edged Florida State 28-27.

Now Eugene, a native of Naples, Fla., is playing as the opponent in Miami’s second-to-last game in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes are moving their games to Dolphin Stadium next season.

“A part of me is like, the Orange Bowl, this is it,” Eugene said. “I always looked forward to playing there. At least I’ll have the opportunity to play there one time. There’s so much history there.”

Eugene’s high-profile opportunity is the result of his own persistence. When he arrived at N.C. State in 2005, former coach Chuck Amato’s staff moved him to defensive back because it had so much young talent at running back in Bobby Washington, Andre Brown and Toney Baker.

Eugene lasted just one day at defensive back. He kept telling his coaches that he was a running back, and they told him they’d give him a shot there.

“I guess they saw the light or something,” Eugene said. “They decided to keep me there, and it’s been a blessing.”

Washington has transferred. Brown and Baker are injured. And Eugene has two performances of more than 100 yards in his last two games as he heads to the Orange Bowl.

– Ken Tysiac