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Building a Future

As the Wolfpack makes final preparations for its season-opening game Saturday versus Western Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium (TICKETS), more than a dozen NC State football players can sit back, smile and think, “Well, this isn’t the hardest thing I’ve done in the last three months.”

And no matter what happens on the football field this fall, it may not be as rewarding, in some respects, as the volunteer work those players did together over the course of five dates in June and July.

Organized by NC State director of football operations Kit Hughes, the players spent five days building and tearing down houses in the Triangle for the Wake County chapter of Habitat for Humanity. They swung hammers and sledgehammers, cut lumber and reclaimed hardwood floors, all in the name of helping the folks who will one day turn their own hard work into a house the Habitat homeowners can afford.

It’s the second consecutive year the football program has participated in a large community service project. During spring break of 2009, Hughes took a group of seven players to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, where they spent a full week helping rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The effort this year, however, was to help local families and to get more Wolfpack players involved. They did two work days in Durham, two just down Trinity Road from Carter-Finley Stadium and one in Raleigh.

“Last year, we went out of state and did a longer, more intensive project,” Hughes said. “One thing we wanted to do this year, was to get guys more involved locally. The four-five-six day overnight project is appealing to some, but we also have some who are more receptive to one day of hard work.

“Next year we may do something different.”

NC State senior Paul Horst cuts siding during a Habitat project.

The construction projects were pretty simple: hammering nails, cutting siding, painting and the like. The players worked on several Habitat houses that will eventually be purchased by a family that has put in hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” in the construction of the home. Those days are always rewarding because of the personal interaction of the people who will live in the house.

“You get to spend a lot to time talking to them and getting to know them a little,” Hughes said. “By the end of the day they are giving you hugs.”

But deconstruction is something completely different – and it’s extraordinarily hard work.

Habitat makes a significant amount of money to fund its construction projects by bidding on deconstruction jobs around the Triangle. Volunteers help take down structures, while reclaiming worthwhile lumber and other building supplies that can be resold in the Habitat store.

It takes a little more time and care than just basic demolition, but the money earned from those projects has funded the construction of more than a dozen homes in the Triangle alone.

“We had to go to an abandoned house and tear it down from top to bottom,” said defensive end Audi Augustin, who did an eight-hour shift on one of the deconstruction assignments in an upscale Durham golf course neighborhood. “I didn’t think it would be that difficult or challenging. I thought they would give me a hammer and I would take out a few nails. I wasn’t expecting us to be busting up tile, tearing down walls, knocking out floors.

“It definitely wore me out. My arms were shot about an hour into it.”

Besides Hughes and Augustin, those who participated were placekicker Josh Czajkowski, wide receivers Jay Smith and Darrell Davis, defensive back Justin Byers, safety Paul Horst, defensive end Sylvester Crawford, fullback Donovan Counts, graduate assistant Bobby Blick, among others.

Czajkowski said thinks of his workday often as the season approaches.

“It was one of those things you don’t get an opportunity to do very often as a student-athlete,” he said. “It was actually pretty fun. It was almost a hundred degrees out there and we are knocking stuff down with a sledgehammer. It’s hard work, but there is a team aspect of it, just like out here on the practice field.

“It’s something that is good for us and good for the team.”

And good for the people who eventually move into their new homes.