N.C. State Forward Saves Wheelchair-Bound Fan During Celebration
Talk about being swept up in the moment!
That’s exactly what happened to N.C. State student Will Privette just after the No. 20-ranked Wolfpack finished off top-ranked Duke on Saturday afternoon in PNC Arena.
In a sequence that’s now gone viral on the Internet, Privette, in his wheelchair, was pushed onto the floor by NCSU Student Body President Andy Walsh ahead of the surge of delirious State students eager to celebrate the victory with the Wolfpack players in the center of the floor.
It was all fun and games until Privette was spilled from his wheelchair and spent a few harrowing moments on the floor amid the stampede of excited students. However, he was rescued by the Wolfpack’s C.J. Leslie, one of the stars in the 84-76 win, as the 6-foot-9 junior forward scooped him up.
“C.J. was holding me and I just started jumping and cheering,” said Privette, a senior communications major who hails from Zebulon, in a telephone interview Sunday. “Finally, they got my chair back and C.J. put me back in my chair.”
No worse for wear, Privette found himself an Internet sensation after footage of the video was quickly circulated.
“It’s awesome. I started around 310 Twitter followers (before the game) and now I’m at 780,” said Privette, who’s been interviewed by USA Today, GoPack.com, NBC 17 and The News & Observer, among others. He has an interview scheduled today with The Fan 99.9-FM radio station.
It’s a strange twist for the 22-year-old (soon to be 23) who is minoring in journalism and has written several freelance articles for The Wilson Times on his beloved Carolina Mudcats minor league baseball team. He is a statistician for the State baseball team and hopes to get a position with an MLB club after graduation.
Now Privette, who was born with limb deformities, shakes his head at the close call.
“It was a bad idea all along but I didn’t care!” he said.
He had been a part of the State students’ on-court celebration when the Wolfpack defeated then No. 6 Duke in 2010. “But then I waited for the first few waves to go through,” he said.
This time, he positioned himself to storm the court when PNC Arena staff members asked him if he planned to go out. When he said he was, Walsh, whom Privette knows, offered to push him. The ESPN footage of the initial surge shows Privette and Walsh “flying into the middle” of the floor before what Privette described as “a domino effect” of a competing student surge from their right sent them both to the floor.
“I think (Wolfpack freshman) Rodney Purvis was the one who backed into me,” Privette described. “Andy said he went down and and had one hand on me and was holding onto Rodney with the other.”
At first, Privette’s chief concern was locating his phone, which he had been using to record the joyful chaos.
“My phone flew out of my hand and my glasses fell off,” he said. “I tried to look for my phone and it kept going further and further away from me so I gave up on it.”
At that point, reality took hold.
“Yeah, I was pretty scared and thinking, ‘This was a bad idea!’” admitted Privette.
But Leslie came to the rescue. Seconds later, Privette said someone handed him his wallet (“I didn’t even know I had lost it!”) then his glasses and finally his phone, which had just a little crack but still worked.
Only his chair didn’t survive. But Privette said he got a call Sunday from fellow State student Carly Dressen, whose father, Ed Dressen, the vice president of Dressen Medical Supply in Holly Springs, offered to replace his chair.
Privette, who said Leslie recognizes him when he sees him on campus, paid a visit to the Wolfpack locker room afterward to thank his rescuer.
“I saw him after the game. I waited for him and said thanks for everything, I appreciate it,” Privette acknowledged.
He also sent a Facebook message to ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale who expressed on-air concern for his safety once Vitale saw Privette’s wheelchair disappear in the mass of students.
Privette said that while he might be more judicious in his approach the next time he’s in a court-storming situation, he’s not going to miss the chance — should his Wolfpack afford him one.
“I don’t know if we’ll have the opportunity to rush again, but yeah, of course!” he said.
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