Following NC State baseball’s controversial departure from the College World Series, Wolfpack fans have wondered just how COVID-19 vaccines might impact the rest of NC State Athletics. Like many of the other schools at the 2021 ACC Football Kickoff, NC State's attendees were met with questions regarding vaccines.
“First of all, [what happened to NC State baseball] was heartbreaking to watch,” said head coach Dave Doeren. “Our coaching community, I guess you would say, we love Coach Avent. He's been a great friend to me. What they had, what a season. To see how it ended was heartbreaking. It's an opportunity to learn for our team. We're going to talk about it when we get together collectively. Our guys have seen it. We've talked one-on-one with several of the players.”
Doeren did not provide a percentage as to how many of his players are vaccinated, but he said he is comfortable with where they are headed. Like NC State baseball head coach Elliott Avent, Doeren said he does not make medical decisions for his players.
“Like everyone, my job is to help these young men grow, help these guys compete, put them in the best places they can be, and keep them as safe as I can keep them,” Doeren said. “At the same time, it's not my job to make medical decisions for our football team. All I can do is educate them, get them around the people that can help them make great choices. That's what I'm trying to do.”
While the drive to not have the season disrupted by COVID-19-related postponements and cancellations is powerful, the decision to get vaccinated goes beyond the football field for some players.
“The reason why I got my shot was I wanted to take care of my team, but also my mom and my dad,” redshirt junior center Grant Gibson said. “My parents both still work from home, and I'll come home and I know that I'm around people that they've been around, so I wanted to make sure that I could take care of them. Also, I didn't want to get to the point where I might have to miss a few games if I did get contact traced.”
The players and Doeren echoed each other when speaking about the fact that administration put a focus on providing education to players, allowing them to make their own decisions.
“I am fully vaccinated, I did decide to make that decision,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback Devin Leary. “What our coaches and administration here really are relaying to us is, they're trying to educate us as much as possible about all the different vaccines and everything. The research that's gone into it. But at the end of the day, they're definitely telling us that it is your decision. It is your own body. It is your own decision on whether or not you want to get the vaccine.”
Leary also added that what happened to NC State baseball gives them a perspective on it and makes it clear that there can be consequences.
“The NC State baseball situation definitely gives you a different perspective of what could possibly happen,” Leary said. “I know a lot of players on our team were tuned into what happened. And I mean, mostly everyone in the country knows what happened. At NC State here, that's the only thing that we're really showing everyone is the facts, or the educating everyone of, ‘Look, this could potentially happen, or this could whether you're going to get vaccinated or not. This could be the consequences or the outcomes.’ But like I said, at the end of the day, it's our body. It's our decision of whether or not you want to get vaccinated or not.”
In addition to the education from the administration, vaccines have also been a conversation among the players.
“We've had talks as a team about, ‘Hey, like, we don't want to end up in a spot where we can't play because we don't have enough guys,’” Gibson said. “We've had those talks. We try to teach people what it's about, like what the vaccine is about. At the end of the day, though, some people don't want to do it then you can't force them. You’ve got to respect what they're doing. So we've had those talks as a team about it. Guys are bought in because we all want to play the game. We don't want to get to a point where we can't play because we didn't get a shot. So that's what we're trying to do.”