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View from the East
Monday, December 1, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Seniors refused to bow to adversity


John Thompson is no longer a first-year football coach at East Carolina. The Pirates finished a 1-11 season on Saturday but were a team that made progress during 2003 despite the won-loss ledger.

“We are not what we wanted to be in terms of success with our record but there’s been a lot of positive things with this football team,” Thompson said. “ ... We all grew from this situation. Now, I don’t want to grow like this ever again — it’s not something that you want to go through. But we’re going to look back and it’s going to make us all better. It already has.

“We’re a tougher team. We’re better people because of what we’ve been through.”

ECU’s seniors kept the team from fragmenting under adversity.

Al Myatt: View from the East - 12.01
Seniors refused to bow to adversity
Nuggets: Notes from ECU and beyond - 12.01
Bonesville: C-USA standings, scores, schedule - 12.01
Bonesville: AP & Coaches football polls - 12.01
Greg Vacek: Daily Web Headlines Roundup - 12.01
Game No. 12: ECU vs. USM Game Vitals - 11.30
Denny O'Brien: Thompson's task now tougher
AP: USM finds C-USA crown in Greenville
Box Score & Statistics

Post-Game Audio: J.T. and Players
Season-to-date game-by-game links
Bonesville: ECU 76, Coastal Carolina 59 - Recap & Box - 11.30
Post-Game Audio: Herrion and Players
Henry Hinton: Henry's Highlights - 11.28
Who is looking out for ECU?
Bonesville: Ex-Army QB barking signals of different kind - 11.28
Sammy Batten: Football Recruiting Report - 11.27

Pedigreed Pinkney not overlooked by ECU

“The people that need to be commended on that are the seniors,” Thompson said. “They’re the ones that went through the toughest changes, the toughest transition and they’re the guys that held this team together and kept fighting. They kept doing it every week.

“Instead of them backing off and saying, ‘You know what? This is really not for me. This is not how I envisioned this. This is not what I wanted.’ They kept fighting and kept going. Instead of going to practice and just getting through it, they went out there and got better. That says so much about what went on.”

The seniors indeed kept their focus on football rather than pointing fingers.

“I’m going to look back and say we stuck together,” said senior Terrance Copper, who finished the season with a school record 87 catches in 2003. “The biggest thing is that this team stuck together through the controversy and the coaching change. I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed being around this team.”

Copper said the team’s cohesion went back to Thompson’s preseason camp when the players stayed at the City Hotel in Greenville and went by bus to practice on campus.

“That made us bond a lot more and even though we did a lot of losing, we’re still real close together,” Copper said. “I don’t know how we managed to do that but we did. That’s a big accomplishment to me. The coaching staff — they’re very exciting. They’re a pleasure to be around.”

Defensive lineman Damane Duckett had a unique perspective on the Pirates’ plight.

“I say, ‘I played for the best team with the worst record,’ because every game we’ve gone out and gotten better,” Duckett said. “We don’t let teams run over us. We just go out there and strive to get better. ... Once the young kids learn that you’re going to keep pushing it — they’re not going to give up just because the season isn’t going well.

"That’s just leading by example. You keep doing that and it’ll just be known as a tradition.”

Offensive tackle Brian Rimpf experienced highs and lows during his ECU career. His first three seasons in the program the Pirates went to bowl games. The last two years, ECU was a combined 5-19.

“It seems like a couple of weeks ago, I was a redshirt freshman,” Rimpf said. “It really has gone by fast. I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve got no regrets. I’ve had a great career — made some great friends, played for some great coaches.

“This season obviously we don’t have the record we would like to have. It’s not the record I would like to have my senior year but this team has really come together. I made a lot of great friends and we really are like a family. I’m going to keep in contact with a lot of these guys. You know, remain friends.”

Receiver Richard Hourigan was almost mystified by the team’s cohesiveness.

“I think it’s really almost unbelievable that we can be such a tight unit here and stay together like we have and only win one game,” said Hourigan, who walked on and earned a scholarship before the 2003 season. “I don’t really understand completely why it’s like that but we really looked forward to every single week and every single game and felt like we had a chance to win. It was something special.”

Fullback Vonta Leach said, “It ain’t gonna be no fun when the rabbit gets the gun,” before his senior season.

“The rabbit didn’t ever get the gun,” Leach said as the season ended. “We had a lot of hopes and high aspirations for our team. Obviously we didn’t get the job done as far as winning as a team. But this team came out here every week and we competed week in and week out. I think we grew a lot with the team coming together. The coaches got to know the players better. ... I think the program is headed in the right direction.”

With Art Brown returning from a knee injury next season, ECU will have two 1,000 yards rushers with Brown joining Marvin Townes, who ran for 1,128 yards as a junior this season.

Patrick Dosh, who transferred from Florida, will enter the competition at quarterback in the spring. Paul Troth would not comment on the possibility that he will not return as a player in the Pirates program after a 38-21 loss to Southern Miss on Saturday.

But Troth, who would be a senior next season, has probably figured that he doesn’t fit into future plans at ECU. He fell behind junior Desmond Robinson and freshman James Pinkney on the depth chart this year. He would clearly have to win the job in the spring to play — something he didn’t do last spring. If everything were to be even in the quarterback evaluations, he no doubt figures the staff would go with the younger player.

The Pirates also have some significant voids to fill on the offensive line before the 2004 season opener. Unless television intervenes with schedule changes, ECU will open at West Virginia and play the first home game the following week against Wake Forest. There will be a matchup with N.C. State on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Charlotte in addition to eight Conference USA games.

Now Thompson will turn his attention to recruiting and evaluating his first season at ECU before spring practice opens Feb. 24.

“I want to get more involved, football wise,” Thompson said. “I didn’t manage my time as well as I would have liked to. I was doing too many things non-football related that I felt like had to be done.”

The program will adjust, move on and, hopefully, improve. The contributions of this year’s seniors shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Vonta said for us not to feel sorry for the seniors,” said Townes, who ran for 89 yards on 17 carries against Southern Miss. “They’re the only ones leaving. We’re still here and we can do something about it.”

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02/23/2007 12:39:50 AM

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