College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Thursday, March 28, 2002
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer
Alston's game and
life on a special plane
Richard Alston’s future in the East Carolina football program appeared
extremely doubtful in early November of 2000 after he allegedly tried to
pass a counterfeit $100 bill at a Burger King in Greenville. The manner in
which Pirates coach Steve Logan dealt with the situation may rate as one of
his best jobs ever in terms of player development.
And Logan has groomed some gems.
Jeff Blake, Marcus Crandell, Dan Gonzalez and David Garrard to name a
few. But their development was essentially in terms of coaching. Logan had
to put a preacher’s hand of guidance on Alston.
Logan initially felt betrayed. He personally recruited Alston from Warren
County High School and promised him a chance at quarterback when other major
programs sought him as an athlete.
East Carolina receiver Richard
Alston (1) confers with Pirate head coach Steve Logan during
spring drills. The Warrenton senior will be an anchor of East
Carolina's offense next fall and one of the team's leaders.
[Photo: Sara Whitford. Used courtesy of
Logan was good to his word, using Alston to spell Garrard on occasion
during the 1999 and 2000 seasons — until Alston’s arrest by Greenville
police in the early morning hours of Nov. 3.
The situation developed, according to Alston, because he needed to make a
car payment and the money he had to do so had been stolen. Alston said he
met a man on campus and paid him $50 for four bogus $100 bills. He tried to
pass one at the drive-through window of the fast food restaurant but
employees were suspicious. They got his license plate and authorities later
traced the vehicle to his apartment.
Police also found an empty bag of marijuana at the apartment, which
Alston later said had been left there by a relative who had been visiting.
The situation didn’t look good. Players have been summarily dismissed
from programs under lesser circumstances. But Logan knew that Alston had few
positive influences in his life apart from the football program. Alston had
been essentially raised by an assistant high school football coach back
home. There was little in the way of a family net to catch Warren County’s
With the help of athletic director Mike Hamrick, the short-term course of
action was devised. Alston would not be allowed to play in games but he
would continue practicing with the team. Jeff Foster provided legal
Fortunately for Alston, the federal administrators who pursue
counterfeiters are not interested in someone as far down the chain as those
first offenders who pass the fake currency. They’re after those who actually
print the fake bills.
Alston’s case never came to trial. But the experience has no doubt helped
scare him straight. Logan told Alston if there was a problem with making a
car payment he should have come and talked to the ECU coach about it.
“We could have talked to the car dealer about it,” Logan said. “Maybe
something could have been worked out.”
But there was a larger issue in the coach’s craw.
“I told him, ‘You neglected your soul,’ ” Logan said.
The Pirates coach had taken Alston to meet Chuck Young, whose Christian
ministry includes a support group that involves a number of ECU players.
Young cooks dinner and provides bible study for players once a week as part
But Alston hadn’t followed up. And lacking the framework of a supportive
home life, Logan realized that Alston had needed to.
ECU fans don’t need to be told that Alston has recovered on the field. He
moved to a receiver for the 2001 season and caught 31 passes for 443 yards
and three touchdowns. He also rushed 11 times for 124 yards with a score.
His ability is such that the Pirates place a high priority on getting the
ball in his hands. But when Alston gets the ball these days, he’s running on
much higher ground.
I heard that Alston had given his testimony at a banquet that Young
organized earlier this year. Powerful stuff. Here’s a guy who knows he could
be out on the street with few marketable skills right now or even worse,
Offensive tackle Brian Rimpf also delivered his testimony.
Logan can take that special pride that teachers feel when they have
successfully redirected a life and the exhilaration preachers must
experience when a lost soul comes to the Lord.
In a sense, Alston’s turnaround is a bigger victory than any of Logan’s
65 career wins as coach of the Pirates. What does the Bible say about angels
rejoicing when a sinner is saved?
There are probably other players who have benefited from Logan’s guidance
that I don’t know about. But I had heard about Alston through the grapevine
and I asked Logan what had happened to his quarterback turned
receiver/delinquent turned Christian.
“My brother is a psychologist in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Logan said.
“He tells me all the time that he gets paid huge sums of money to help
people solve their problems. But he also tells me this — short of a true
spiritual experience people rarely, rarely ever change. I believe that, too.
“I’ve seen people have experiences that change them for a little bit but
to make a profound change, a true change, it has to be something at the soul
level. This is just what I believe. I don’t evangelize and preach, but at
the same time Richard did indeed, in my estimation, make a spiritual
decision in his life that has positively affected him in a way that nobody
could have predicted.
“But we’ve all seen it and when it does happen it’s a wonderful thing.
The bad situation that he went through — and he will readily tell you he
created himself — has been a springboard for him to figure out how to live
his life a better way.”
An “Amen” to that.
Rules makers can learn from
high schools <<< Top of
Here’s some more food for thought from the Pirates coach.
The NCAA recently announced that it would increase the penalty for
invading the “halo” of a return man from five yards to 10 yards, a move
designed for increased safety. I asked Coach Logan if there were any other
rules changes he favored.
“I like what the high schools have on defensive encroachment,” he said.
The encroachment rule apparently has a lot of gray area for
interpretation in college and pros. Defenders can cross the neutral zone
without penalty if they’re back onside at the snap and their actions don’t
physically threaten the offense.
“To me it would clean it up and make it simpler to enforce if we went to
the high school rule,” Logan said.
Personal bests on NFL tests
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ECU seniors David Garrard and Leonard Henry each ran personal best times
in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Garrard ran a 4.72-second time and
Henry opened some eyes with his 4.51-second clocking. That enhances Henry’s
package of pass catching and power running just a little bit more. He had
run a 4.55 earlier at ECU and in postseason conditioning workouts in New
Orleans. The draft is coming up April 20-21.
<<< Top of Page >>>
is the final day of 6 a.m. conditioning workouts for ECU football players.
The 56-minute sessions started after spring practice and provide a varied
program of aerobic activities. An offseason program of weight training
starts Monday. The new strength and conditioning center is supposed to open
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02/23/2007 12:58:52 AM