Family is the most important thing in Chuck Amato's life. You can see it in the devotion to his wife, his daughters and even to his new grandson. That devotion also extends to another family, one that he has been a part of for four decades now: the Wolfpack family.
In the years between when he left NC State and when he returned as head coach, Amato remained close to many friends and colleagues at NC State. During that time, despite the success he enjoyed in the coaching profession, his dream remained consistent: to return to the institution he loved.
Since Amato returned to his alma mater in January of 2000, the Wolfpack family has rallied around NC State football in record numbers. Season ticket sales have risen each of the last four years, increasing each year. Last season, every ticket for every home game was sold long before the season began and 2004 sales are on pace to sell out even earlier.
Wolfpackers have also lent their support for new construction projects throughout the athletic department. Some of the most impressive undertakings have been the Murphy Football Center, which opened last year and the new press box and luxury suites, which are scheduled for completion prior to the 2004 campaign.
The Wolfpack's larger-than-life leader enjoys every aspect of being the head football coach at NC State University - developing strategy, competing fiercely, building relationships with young men, meeting with NC State alumni and fans - it's all part of what makes Chuck Amato so passionate about the job he waited for almost three decades for.
In only four seasons back in Raleigh, Amato has led the Wolfpack to unprecented successes. He has coached the first 11-win season in school history, and is only the fourth coach in ACC history to take his first four teams to bowl games. The 2002 Wolfpack finished the season with NC State's highest national ranking in a decade and his recruiting classes have gotten stronger and stronger each season.
Amato was named head coach of the Wolfpack on January 6, 2000, and his passion for his job was evident immediately. At the press conference announcing his hiring, in front of hundreds of members of the Wolfpack family who came out to greet him, he shed tears of joy and remembrance as he recalled some of the people who meant so much to him at NC State. He donned the red and white just two days after watching his Florida State team win a national championship, but immediately turned his sights on building the same type of championship attitude for the Wolfpack.
His first step towards building a championship program was to bring in a coaching staff with more than two centuries of combined collegiate coaching experience. He and his staff then set their sights on getting the team in shape. In the spring of 2000 Amato demanded that his players hit the field leaner and meaner, and the Wolfpack players responded by collectively losing more than 700 pounds. Now, after three years at NC State, that winning attitude isn't new any longer; it's simply an accepted fact.
Before his first season as head coach at NC State began, Amato had shirts made for his team that had a single word emblazoned across the front: "FINISH." His team learned the importance of that simple word, and the Pack took three games into overtime and played eight games that were decided by eight points or less. His squad finished the season accomplishing something that few had predicted before the season began: a postseason bowl bid. Amato and company weren't satisfied just with a trip to the bowl; they wanted a victory. Even though a victory didn't look likely when the score stood at 24-0 in Minnesota's favor late in the first half of the Micronpc.com Bowl, the Pack did what it had done all year, FINISHing with a 38-30 win.
In addition to compiling an 8-4 record, the 2000 Wolfpack squad posted numbers that rank among the school's all-time top 10 in 13 single-season team categories. Amato's first team set school records for pass completions (242), pass attempts (455) and fewest turnovers (20) in a season. NC State's 3,218 passing yards in 2000 was the second-best mark in the 109 seasons of Wolfpack football. In addition, Linebacker Levar Fisher and wide receiver Koren Robinson earned All-America notice. Fisher also was voted the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year, while Robinson was the first-round draft pick (ninth pick overall) the following spring of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. Quarterback Philip Rivers was named the conference's Rookie of the Year.
In 2001, the Amato had a new motto for his team: "FULL SPEED AHEAD." In his second season at the helm, the Pack won seven regular-season games, including a historic 34-28 victory over Florida State in Tallahassee, the Seminoles' first-ever ACC loss at home. The 2001 Wolfpack broke the 2000 team's record for pass completions with 248, and did so in 70 fewer attempts. Not surprisingly, the Pack also shattered the school mark for completion percentage at 64.4 percent, easily eclipsing the 1992 team's mark of 61.4 percent.
In addition, the Pack committed just 13 turnovers in 11 regular-season games, bettering the 2000 team's record by seven. Defensively, the 2001 Wolfpack allowed nearly 200 fewer total yards than the '01 team, including 539 fewer yards on the ground. The Wolfpack got stronger as the season progressed, winning four of its last five regular-season games and scoring nearly 32 points per game in those five contests.
In 2002, the Pack reached unprecedented heights. The Wolfpack started the season 9-0 and was ranked as high as No. 8 in the country. The Pack finished its season strong with a nationally-televosed win over Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl in front of a sea of red fans that filled three-fourths of Altell Stadium in Jacksonville. In addition to posting a school-record 11 wins, the Pack set school records for pass completions, first downs, total yards, points and kickoff returns. Five members of his 2002 squad won first-team All-ACC honors - more than double the previous two years' combined total - and the Wolfpack boasted the ACC Rookie of the Year (T.A. McLendon) for the second time in Amato's three years with the program.
The team's motto, "STEP UP," certainly was taken to heart. Amato's team overcame injuries and bounced back from a three-game losing streak to become just the first team in the ACC to defeat Florida State three times since the Seminoles joined the league in 1991. The Wolfpack's defense, which ranked first in the ACC in total defense, did not allow an offensive touchdown in wins against Florida State and Notre Dame to finish the season.
For 2003, Amato and his staff urged their squad to play with enthusiasm and fierceness with the new motto: "CUT IT LOOSE." Although hit hard by injuries even before the season began, the Wolfpack made ACC history in 2003, as Rivers set conference records in almost every passing and total offense category and set an NCAA Division I mark for starts by a quarterback (51). The team set school records for total offense, first downs, passing attempts, completions and yards, completion percentage, and touchdowns and points scored. Rivers was named the ACC Player of the Year, joining teammates Jerricho Cotchery, Sean Locklear and Andre Maddox on the all-conference first team. In April, Rivers became NC State's highest NFL draft pick in over 40 years.
Amato came home to NC State as the 32nd head coach in program history after spending 18 years at Florida State, 14 as assistant head coach. He directed the Seminole defensive line for 14 years and spent four seasons running the linebacking corps. He has been a part of 11 ACC championships, one as a player at NC State (1965), two as an assistant coach for the Wolfpack (1973, 1979), and eight consecutive at Florida State (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999).
FSU was ranked in the top four of the final Associated Press poll each of Amato's last 13 years with the program, and the Seminole defense ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing defense seven of his last eight years. The Seminoles ranked in the top 20 in all four defensive categories (total defense, rushing defense, passing efficiency defense and scoring defense) in 1999.
Amato coached three consensus All-Americans at FSU: defensive end Reinard Wilson, linebacker Sam Cowart and defensive end Andre Wadsworth. After he took over the direction of the linebacking corps in 1996, he directed one two-time Butkus Award semifinalist (Daryl Bush), and four NFL draft picks. He also produced some of the nation's top defensive linemen while leading that unit.
A native of Easton, Pa., the 58-year-old Amato earned his B.S. in mathematics education from NC State in 1969 and his master's in education in 1973. He was a three-year letterwinner in football and wrestling for the Wolfpack, playing on the gridiron for the legendary Earle Edwards. He played on the 1965 squad that earned an ACC co-championship and posted two undefeated seasons as a wrestler, earning two ACC titles (heavyweight in 1966 and 191 pounds in 1968).
Following his graduation from NC State, Amato spent two years as an assistant coach at his prep alma mater, Easton Area High School. In 1971, he began a nine-year stint as an assistant with the Wolfpack, working under Al Michaels, Lou Holtz and Bo Rein. He served as a graduate assistant in 1971 and 1972, coached the defensive secondary from 1973-75, and was the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach from 1976-79. He coached four All-ACC defensive backs for the Wolfpack during that stretch and also coached current Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.
Prior to joining the Florida State staff, Amato spent two seasons at the University of Arizona (1980-81), where he served as linebackers coach.
Amato's devotion to NC State can only be topped by his devotion to his family. He's been married to his wife, Peggy, a native of Raleigh, for 30 years. The couple has twin daughters, LuGina and Selena, both graduates of Florida State. LuGina lives in Raleigh, while Selena, who is married to former Florida State football player Jarad Moon, lives in Florida. Amato's first grandson, Sterling Moon, joined the family in May of 2004.