In Ted Larsen’s perfect football world, you wouldn’t be reading this article.
That’s because there would be no game program. There wouldn’t be anyone to sell them to, because the stands would be empty. The only spectators would be the coaches and the players on the sidelines.
It would be pretty quiet. No music would be playing because the band wouldn’t be there; no sounds of cheers bcause the cheerleaders are absent. No cannon would fire at touchdowns and the PA system would be silent. The only noise would be the thuds and grunts coming from the 22 men on the field and the crack of pads and helmets meeting around the football.
When the team entered the field, there would be no smoke and no fireworks. Nobody would touch a wolf and most would probably just walk onto the field instead of running.
When the game was over, the players would shake hands, shower, and head out. There would be no interviews because no media would be in attendance. No publicity or recognition would be given for standout performances and he wouldn’t have to discuss the game with the media afterwards. He could just leave the field feeling the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.
“I would rather play in front of nobody,” Larsen says quietly. “I don’t really care about any of that stuff, I just love the game. I play for the competition and for the love of playing football. None of that other stuff matters to me.”
After talking to Larsen for a while, that attitude is not surprising. He’s seemingly unflappable, with a stoic demeanor and quiet, almost monotone voice.
But once the ball is snapped (or once HE snaps the ball), that demeanor changes. He’s been described as “aggressive” and “intense” and a time or two has even been called “mean”; all qualities that serve to make him one of the Wolfpack’s top players and a likely candidate to keep playing the game he loves for years to come.
When speaking with Larsen, it’s easy to see how important football is to him, but difficult to figure out just when the sport became such a key part of his life.
“I didn’t play football until high school,” he says. “There wasn’t a team in middle school and when I was real young, I never could play because of the weight limit.”
Larsen, who graduated from NC State in May with a degree in history, instead grew up playing baseball, baskeball and soccer. He started playing football in ninth grade, moving quickly onto the varsity squad after earning a reputation as a hard-nosed defender. Already a big kid, a broken arm the spring after his freshman year got him into the weight room, where he learned how to work out and get into football condition.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I don’t think I ever had an ‘aha’ moment when I realized that football was the sport for me,” Larsen says. “I just went out there every day and worked hard and I’m still doing that now.”
Larsen barely knows what to do with himself when he’s not around football. A couple of weeks when the Wolfpack had an open date, he was lost. “I kinda went crazy on the bye week,” he laughs. “I didn’t know what to do with all that free time. I would rather play football than anything.”
Until the end of his third season at NC State, the Palm Harbor, Fla., native played on the defensive side of the ball. He redshirted the 2005 campaign, started three games at defensive tackle in 2006 and two in 2007. Following his redshirt-sophomore season, head coach Tom O’Brien and offensive line coach Don Horton decided that Larsen would be a prime candidate to move to center. He had never even snapped a ball before the spring of 2008, but ended up starting 13 games at his new position that season.
Larsen pursued learning his new spot as aggressively as he had formerly pursued ball carriers, and instead of chasing the opposing quarterback, he was looking at his own, upside down between his legs. But despite that change of perspective, by the beginning of his senior campaign he was not only a solidified starter, but was a strong NFL prospect at center and was a candidate for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top player at that position.
Despite the change and the success he’s enjoyed there, Larsen isn’t real enthused about discussing it. In fact, he sometimes feels as though that’s the only thing he’s been asked about since the switch occurred. “I didn’t really want to move but I want to keep playing football, so it’s worked out pretty well. I just don’t want to keep talking about it,” he says matter-of-factly.
One thing that Larsen shows a little more enthusiasm in talking about is fishing. Since he started college, he’s taken up fishing as a hobby. It’s a sport that suits his personality and his wish to compete without pomp and circumstance. “I love backcountry fishing in the Everglades or the Keys,” he says. “I don’t use an airboat, just a boat with a shallow draft.”
Larsen says he’s right at home with just the sound of an outboard motor and maybe an alligator gliding by. “It would be cool to be a competitive fisherman one day,” he says. “It would be great to go out there every day.”
Ted Larsen’s Dream Interview
Ted Larsen says that he doesn’t mind doing interviews (his words are “I don’t hate them and I don’t love them.”), but he says he wishes he got asked more interesting questions than his move from defensive tackle to center. Like what? “Pop trends and things like that.”
So, we obliged by hitting him with some questions that have nothing to do with football:
What do you think about Twitter? “I like Twitter. In fact, I twitter, but it’s private. I have about 10 people following me and I twit-pic and just tweet what I’m doing.”
Whose fault, Jon or Kate? “I think it’s probably TV’s fault. I don’t watch it, but my girlfriend does.”
What is the most challenging fish to pursue? “A blue marlin. I’ve never really gone marlin fishing, but I would like to. I think you catch one marlin per thousand hours trolling or something like that, so it would really be a challenge.”
Should college players be paid? “It would be nice. I don’t think anybody is taking advantage of us by not paying us, but it would be nice and probably the right thing to do.”
What’s your opinion on the balloon boy? (Laughs) “There’s some pretty weird stuff going on out there. I guess people are starved for attention.”
Who’s going to win Dancing with the Stars? “I don’t watch that and I don’t dance. My parents are taking dance classes right now though. I do watch a bunch of reality shows on Bravo - Top Chef, the one with the guy who flips houses, a whole bunch of shows.”
What is the best place to raise kids? “I think Raleigh is a good area, but I don’t want kids right now. Maybe when I’m older, in my forties. I’m in no hurry. I would miss the water though, so I might want to live in Florida.”
What do you think about Florida’s role in the 2000 presidential election? “I wasn’t old enough to vote so I don’t really have an opinion.”
Playing two sports in college: thumbs up or down? “It would be tough. It would depend on the sport and the person. If I DID do it, my other sport would be golf or tennis.”
Thoughts on Michael Jackson: “I’m not really into all that, but Russell [Wilson] really is. He went to the opening night of the new movie and everything.”
Besides your dancing parents, what’s your family like? “I’m the middle child of five. I have an older brother and sister and a younger brother and sister. There’s a big age different between us [15 years], so I was kinda a loner.”