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College Sports in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Thursday, December 5, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Pirates primed for 4th straight bowl — 'Senior Bowl'

©2002 Bonesville.net

When East Carolina takes the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium it’s always an emotional moment. The new entrance tunnel from the Murphy Center this year has only added to the drama of the team’s entrance.

The smoke canisters are set off and there is truly a “Purple Haze” as the song of the same title by Jimi Hendrix is played on the public address system. The video presentation on the scoreboard that precedes the team’s appearance and the inspirational comments from former university president Leo Jenkins and coach Steve Logan add to the drama.

It’s an introduction that should make Pirates fans proud. Players should feel fulfilled about the sacrifices they have made to be part of the program to be able to run on the field in a purple jersey.

There are 17 seniors for ECU who will emerge from that tunnel to do battle as Pirates for the last time on Friday night against Cincinnati. This is their last hurrah on the college level. It’s their bowl game.

Most will never again play the game they have worked at for much of their lives.

“To me it’s a big game,” said senior Richard Alston, who has made at least one reception for the Pirates in the last 22 games. “Like Coach told the guys at the meeting on Sunday, it’s like our senior bowl. I’m definitely going to come out there and try to play my best game of the season. It’s on national television (ESPN 2). I want to go out there and go out with a bang.”

And Alston isn’t thinking only of himself in that regard.

“I don’t want those guys next year going into the season with a losing streak,” he said. “I want that to end Friday.”

The seniors will be introduced with their parents before the 7 p.m. kickoff. Alston began his career as a quarterback out of Warren County High School and backed up David Garrard for two years in a capacity similar to that which Desmond Robinson does with Paul Troth now. Alston made a successful transition to receiver as a junior.

“I’ve had great coaching and I’ve improved,” Alston said. “... Going to three bowl games out of the four years I’ve played has been a big positive for my career as well.”

Hosea James has endured eight knee surgeries during his college career but his enjoyment of the game kept him going. Since moving into a starting position at defensive tackle during the season, James has emerged as the team’s leader in sacks with four and he’s third in tackles for losses with nine.

“There will be some emotion after everything I’ve been through in my college career,” James said. “It’s going to be real hard to run out there with the team for the last time into that purple haze. It’s going to be real hard and all but, hey, you’ve got to run through it. It’s just like life. You’ve got to go on.

“It’s going to be fun to run through that tunnel for the last time.”

What would it mean to James to go out a winner?

“It’s going to let everybody know that, hey, it was a rough season but we never gave up. We always fought hard. ... It would be a great big start for the juniors and sophomores for next year.”

Like James, receiver Torey Morris has had to overcome injuries during his ECU career.

“It’s a big game for the seniors,” Morris said. “It’s going to be our last time playing out here at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. We just want to go out with a win as a senior and just have a good time. Just enjoy the night.

“Playing at East Carolina has been a great learning experience. Meeting new guys and maybe continuing those relationships after football’s over with. Injuries — that’s part of the game and they come and go. I have no regrets. Everything’s been good as far as I’m concerned.”

Ronald Pou, a transfer from the Georgia Military program that earlier produced Keith Stokes and Derrick Collier, is originally from nearby Williamston. His family will be at ECU to support him but some of his high school buddies will probably be at home watching Williamston in the high school playoffs.

“It’s going to be a great experience for me,” Pou said of his final college game. “I worked real hard. I went to the military school and worked so I could get back here and when I got here I did what I had to do to learn everything and I think it’s well worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“My ideal scenario would be to play the greatest college game of my life.”

Kevin Miller came too ECU on a golf scholarship and hopes to represent the Pirates on the links this fall. In between, the Pirates kicker has set a school career record for scoring with 279 points.

“It’s gone by extremely quickly,” Miller said. “You go through the ’99 season, we had a lot of fun and it was a great year (9-3) and it continued on into this year — made a lot of great memories, made a lot of great relationships with coaches and players and overall it’s been a great run the last four years.

“It’s been a little bit disappointing this season but hopefully Friday night we can win and end this season on a good note.”

Miller said he will try to take it all in as he takes the field at ECU for the last time while trying to keep his role in perspective.

“I don’t want to overwhelm myself with thoughts of trying to do something special or doing something I haven’t done in the past,” Miller said. “I want to play the game like I’ve played it the past four years and (not) go out a try to do something I haven’t done. I just want to go out and help the team win.

“At the end of the game it will probably be a little bit emotional walking off the field for the last time. It’ll be a little bit sad but life goes on. It’s something everybody faces. It’s been a great run and I had a lot of fun so. Hopefully, it won’t be too emotional Friday after the game.”

Flex end Ben Thomas has also been a contributor for the Pirates on special teams and has enjoyed his time at ECU.

“I’ve been able to play against great college teams, played in great games, memorable games, been on TV a lot and overall this program is moving up,” Thomas said.

Hopefully the Pirates can go out with a victory, but Coach Logan will remember this senior class for the combined quality of its personality. They have been winners, even if the record says 4-7.

“I told our youngsters in a team meeting (on Sunday) that if they wanted to know what a coaching staff is looking for in a senior class they had a great model to work from,” Logan said. “This particular group has been a really upbeat group of youngsters to work with all year long.

“It’s been trying enough that if you had added in some negativity, some negative personalities or some locker room issues that can crop up from time to time, that would have really been hard to deal with. We’ve had none of that and in fact they’ve made sure that none of that exists. Christshawn Gilliam, (Antwane) Yelverton, Jay Blair’s been a great kid, Hosea James has played his best ball as a senior.

... “You just go down the list and every year when you get through with your season, the seniors, you look at them and there’s a story with every one of ’em as to what their journey was like going through here. I think they’ve all had a great experience. Almost every one of them is going to have their degree in hand walking out the door. ... So they’ve succeeded and we have too.”

THE 2002 SENIORS*

No. Name Pos. Hometown Comment

1 Richard Alston, WR, Warrenton, 59 career catches for 1,025 yards and 9 TDs
3 Antwane Yelverton, S, Snow Hill, 243 tackles and played in every game the last four years
10 Kevin Miller, K, Virginia Beach, Leads ECU’s career scoring with 279 points
12 Anthony Adams, S, Greenville, 211 career tackles and five interceptions
13 Antwan Adams, S, Greenville, Anthony’s twin has 151 career tackles
15 Jarad Preston, P, Tucson, AZ, All-Conference USA punter with 43.5-yard average
20 Jerome Steward, CB, Jacksonville, FL, 177 tackles and played in every game last four years
26 Christshawn Gilliam, LB, Lewiston, Effective, versatile performer who also came through at RB
28 Kelly Hardy, S, Kinston, 195 tackles with four defensive TDs
30 John Williamson, LB, Chadbourn, 189 career tackles including some very strategic stops
42 Ben Thomas, TE, Reston, VA, Special teams performer and tight end
44 Ja’Waren Blair, DL, Winston-Salem, 128 career tackles, 13 for losses, 6 sacks
48 Lee Hunt, P, Kernersville, Three-year contributor on scout teams
73 Phoenix Evans, OL, Kinston, Played in 42 games in four years
79 Ronald Pou, DL, Williamston, 59 tackles in two years after transferring
86 Torey Morris, WR, Toms River, NJ, 64 career catches for 958 yards, 7 TDs
93 Hosea James, DL, Jacksonville, Injury-plagued career redeemed with sparkling senior season

*Source: ECU sports information

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02/23/2007 12:57:43 AM
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