If you were thinking that Richard Alston made one of the fastest
recoveries from mononucleosis in medical history, you were not alone.
Alston, one of the premier receivers on this year’s East Carolina football
team, played against Duke, missed the Wake Forest game — with mono,
supposedly — and returned for last week’s 24-20 Conference USA win over
Mono usually weakens its victims for weeks, even months, so Alston’s
swift return was surprising — and uplifting for those who anticipated a
“Maybe I didn’t have it,” Alston said on Wednesday. “I never
did get any symptoms.”
The split end felt weak, he said, for about 10
minutes during practice on Wednesday before the Wake game and sat out a
portion of the Pirates’ workout that afternoon.
“I actually finished
practice,” he said. “I did the wind sprints. But I lost some weight in
practice and my blood shifted. The next day I got some IVs.”
Alston's absence opened door for Pirates' 'Rudy'
to make three catches for 23 yards in ECU’s first home game against the
Green Wave. The good news for the Pirates in regard to Alston’s situation is
that it allowed walk-on receiver Richard Hourigan an opportunity to show his
“We talk about players stepping up and that’s what Richard has done,”
said Pirates coach Steve Logan. Hourigan had five catches for 48 yards
against the Deacons, including a touchdown reception.
The son of Jim
Hourigan, former Cary High School baseball coach, Hourigan has paid his dues
in the Pirates program. He put in two years on the scout team and played
sparingly last season without making a catch as injuries to Torey Morris and
Aaron Harris allowed him to get on the field. He made his first college
catch for eight yards in the rain at Duke.
“It was a 5-yard hitch route,”
Hourigan said. “Paul Troth made a quick 3-step drop. It was a little bit
inside and I slid to catch it. The ball was so wet I don’t know how he could
Hourigan said the members of the team recognize what he has been through just to
make it onto the field.
“My teammates were happy for me,” he said. “They
knew I was good enough to play. It’s a struggle to be a walk-on, You have to
overcome a lot of obstacles. Just getting noticed by the coaches is tough
and the scholarship players should get the attention because the school is
paying for them to be there.
“It’s tough to catch the coach’s eye,
especially on the scout team, because all you’re trying to do is give them
the look of an opponent. But I tried to earn the respect of my teammates.
That’s what means the most to me.
“I absolutely love competing and it’s
definitely competitive to come here and try to play.”
Hourigan had some
interest from Catawba, Appalachian State, Lenoir-Rhyne and the Pirates in
the recruiting process. Former tight ends coach Terry Tilghman, now
recruiting coordinator, talked with him in high school but the Pirates
didn’t offer a scholarship.
“I didn’t want to go to school just for sports,”
Hourigan said. “East Carolina had a good business school and a good medical
school so I decided to try and walk on there.”
Hourigan is somewhat
reminiscent of the movie, “Rudy,” the story of a walk-on at Notre Dame whose
persistence eventually got him on the field. Hourigan has already seen more
playing time than the flick’s main character.
“I’ve always had confidence in
my own ability and I knew I was good enough to be here,” he said. “In spring
practice I would make some catches on take-off routes against the starting
defensive backs. Each spring I made more and more catches. That’s when I
really knew I could play here.”
Hourigan’s dad gets to as many games as
“He’s always supported me in athletics,” Hourigan said. “He never
made me play specific sports. He felt sports taught character and
competitiveness, like that in the real world. I think he understands what
athletes go through and that’s helped me out a lot.”
Hourigan led the state
in interceptions with 10 at Cary in 1998, which also set a school season
record. He also set school records for touchdown receptions (11) and yards
(950) in 1999. He made all-conference two years and was the Tri-Seven 4-A
Conference player of the year when he caught 61 passes as a senior. He had
31 tackles on defense that year and also excelled on special teams,
returning a kickoff for a touchdown.
Hourigan also was a three-year starter
in baseball at Cary, although his dad had stepped down from coaching the
Imps in baseball by that time. His dad played baseball at Elon and Richard
considered trying to play baseball in college, too.
“Few athletes can manage
two sports in college,” he said. “I felt I could succeed better in football
The sure-handed receiver juggles football and academics very
well. He has a 3.85 grade point average — on a 4.0 scale — and is pursuing a
masters degree in accounting on the 5-year plan.
What does his future hold?
“I guess I’ll join the business world and find my niche in society,” he
He’s also thought about coaching.
“It’s what my dad did his whole
professional life,” Hourigan said. “I’ve seen how fun and rewarding it can
be from him. I’ll always keep that door open. I’d love to get into
Hourigan’s position coach, ECU receivers coach Bob Leahy, has a depth of
understanding of the game that has been a great asset to the walk-on’s
“He definitely has an offensive mind,” Hourigan said of Leahy, who once
served as Terry Bradshaw’s back-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers. “He played
quarterback in college and the pros even. He gives you the perspective of a
quarterback. He helps you to know where to be and how to get yourself open.
“He gives you a complete understanding of the game and takes the
receivers to the next level.”
Offensive line shuffle
Pirates junior center Doug White is expected to miss at least two games
with a grade two sprain of an MCL sustained in the Tulane game. That means
White probably will be out for the game at West Virginia on Sept. 28 and a
C-USA game at home with Army the following week, Oct. 5.
Hagen Mason will
move from a back-up role into the starting job at center. Mason is a
sophomore from Tallahassee, FL, and shares an apartment with fellow
offensive lineman Charlie Dempsey, sophomore quarterback Paul Troth and
junior running back Art Brown.
White moved into the starting lineup at the
end of his freshman year when an injury sidelined Sherwin Lacewell at West
Virginia. White stepped in and started ECU’s next game, a 14-9 win in the
slosh at Southern Miss in 2000. His absence means that Hunter Wood will back
True freshmen Gary Freeman and David Jorgensen have also been pressed
into the offensive line rotation. Junior Brandon Pope is expected to return
midseason from a shoulder injury in a May car accident that likely ended the
playing career of basketball forward Jason Herring.