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View from the East
Thursday, September 19, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Alston dodges medical science with rapid return


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 Tulane.

Mono usually weakens its victims for weeks, even months, so Alston’s swift return was surprising — and uplifting for those who anticipated a longer absence.

“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'

Alston returned 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 stuff.

“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 throw it.”

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 possible.

“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 than baseball.”

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 said.

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 coaching.”

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 development.

“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 up Mason.

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.

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02/23/2007 12:59:33 AM

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