NC State punter Jeff Ruiz heads to the checkout line with a shopping cart filled with toys and sporting goods.

Wolfpack in the… Toy Department?

December 21, 2010

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The competition was fierce in the Garner, N.C., Walmart as members of the NC State football team took a time out from Champs Sports Bowl preparations to drape hula hoops over their jerseys and load up carts in the quest to become the top shopper for the Marines’ Toys for Tots program.

The winner was Wayne Crawford, NC State’s 303-pound center, who reached the checkout line with a $3,600 total.

“I love helping,” said Crawford, who affirmed it was the biggest and most enjoyable shopping spree he had ever done because “it a great cause.”

The junior lineman from Philadelphia, Pa., defeated the event’s two-time defending champion – NC State placekicker Josh Czajkowski – who wore a pint-sized black cowboy hat during his shopping spree.

Wolfpack PK Josh Czajkowski was the two-time defending champion entering this year's shopping showdown.

Crawford and nine teammates picked out $24,440 worth of toys in 45 minutes, then helped load them on a truck. Sophomore quarterback Mike Glennon finished second, followed by punter Jeff Ruiz and quarterback Russell Wilson. R.J. Mattes, C.J. Wilson, Paul Horst, Corey Tedder, David Akinniyi and Czajkowski all pulled in impressive hauls.

Toys for 80,000

The Wolfpack players, who finished the regular-season 8-4 and are headed to Orlando Dec. 28 to play West Virginia, flashed their competitive spirit in the store. But the real winners are area kids.

The Pack’s Walmart run helps Marine Gunnery Sgt. Mick Gibson in his quest to distribute at least one gift to 80,000 children in Raleigh and eight surrounding counties. Coca Cola contributed $21,000 and State fans donated $24,000, plus toys, at this season’s regular-season finale against Wake Forest.

Head football coach Tom O’Brien, a finalist for the 2010 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award, is a strong supporter of Toys for Tots, which would receive $50,000 if O’Brien wins the vote-driven, online competition.

“It’s very exciting,” said Wilson, who finished second in ACC Player of the Year balloting this season. “It’s a blessing for these kids, a blessing for us, a blessing we have as much money and can pretty much get whatever we want for the kids.”

“I’m glad to give back to the community,” added Mattes, who was carefully selecting boys and girls gifts while wearing hula hoops around his neck.

It’s all part of the O’Brien philosophy — for the Wolfpack to be champions in the classroom, champions on the field, and champions in the community.