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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, December 22, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

ECU's answer is homegrown talent, says 'Chip'


New Bern coach Chip Williams has developed players on the high school level who have gone on to play professionally, but he saw his first NFL game on Sunday in Charlotte as the Carolina Panthers defeated the Detroit Lions, 20-14.

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“It sounds kind of bad to say it,” said Williams, who lettered in football at East Carolina in 1969. “But they put the results of the various state championship games up on the scoreboard. There it was — Charlotte Independence 54, New Bern 7. That was my worst defeat ever in high school coaching — and I hope it stays that way.”

There was no anonymity for Williams when the Ericsson Stadium scoreboard told its story.

“There was somebody in my section who knew me and they pointed it out in front of everybody,” Williams said.

Williams’ team lost to Independence in the 4-AA final, the state’s largest classification, for the second straight season.

The Shrine Bowl on Saturday in Rock Hill, SC, represented a personal opportunity of redemption for Williams, who was head coach of the North Carolina team.

A pair of New Bern's standout players, quarterback Davon Drew and linebacker Joseph Mosely, were chosen to play in the game.

Williams and staff picked the N.C. Shrine team from about 500 seniors who attended Shrine Bowl combines, a concept developed by Harold Robinson two years ago as the Shrine Bowl coach from Williamston.

(Incidentally, there have been reports this week that Robinson will not return as coach of the Tigers program which has sent players such as Pernell Griffin, Ronald Pou and Kevin Roach to the Pirates.)

Within a week the N.C. coaches, led by Williams, molded the all stars into a functional unit that essentially beat South Carolina with its ground game, 21-12. That followed a 28-0 win over South Carolina last year when Robinson, another ECU alumnus, guided the N.C. stars.

“Personally I would have hated to go a whole year before being involved in another game,” Williams said. “The Shrine Bowl eased the pain of the state final a little bit.”

The N.C. Shrine Bowl team featured two players who have committed to ECU and more who the Pirates are recruiting. ECU already has verbals from quarterback Antonio Miller of Charlotte Olympic and defensive back Pierre Bell of West Craven.

“Antonio probably would have liked for us to throw more,” Williams said. “We tried to throw early but we weren’t successful protecting the quarterback so it evolved into a running game as it progressed.

"Everybody talked about how South Carolina had its best defensive line and offensive line in 20 years and we preached that to our kids all week. We told them we were an army of one in green and gold. ... Everybody pulled together.

“Miller is a good athlete. He might have been disappointed we didn’t throw more but I know he was proud that we won and put two wins (in the Shrine Bowl) back to back.”

The N.C. offense, coordinated by Rocky Mount coach B.W. Holt, ran 47 times for 216 yards but threw just seven times — one of those an 11-yard touchdown pass from Drew to Tremaine Goddard of Robersonville Roanoke.

Greenville Rose star Andre Brown led the N.C. ground game with 16 carries for 122 yards which included a 26-yard scoring run.

Northeast Guilford coach Tommy Pursley coordinated the N.C. defense, which limited South Carolina to 25 net yards on 32 rushes. Clay Jordan of West Craven and Williams’ son, Beau, assisted on the N.C. defense.

One of Jordan's protégés, Bell, impressed Williams.

“Bell is a great player with size (6-foot-2, 212 pounds) and quickness,” Williams said. “He played well and made a couple of crucial stops. What they said about the South Carolina offensive and defensive lines was correct, but North Carolina had about as much size and I believe we were a step quicker.”

Williams was very impressed with N.C. inside linebackers Aaron Curry of Fayetteville Smith and Quentin Cotton of Kernersville Glenn.

“I think East Carolina has offered Curry,” Williams said. “I’m not sure about Cotton. Both of those guys had their motors running at 100 miles an hour all week and I mean that in a positive way.”

Pirates running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Jerry McManus was on hand several times during the Shrine Bowl week. ECU head coach John Thompson came in for the banquet on Friday night. Phil Fulmer of Tennessee and Clemson coach Tommy Bowden also made appearances. Williams was told that Ohio State coach Jim Tressel attended the game.

Williams said former ECU offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was also there — in the garb of his new role on the Mississippi State staff. Grimes’ son Nick, a standout lineman at Rose, was on the Shrine team. Grimes had been offered a grant to ECU but it’s possible that his dad’s move will affect that situation.

“Nick did a great job,” Williams said. “He may not have the height at 5-11 for Division I but he certainly makes up for it with heart. We played him at guard but we could have played him anywhere on the offensive line. He’s just hard-nosed and tough. He was matched up against kids 6-6 — they looked like they were 6-8 to me — and I thought he handled it pretty well.”

ECU is very interested in Drew, according to Williams. The date of his official visit has been pushed up to the second week in January.

Brown, who was named state player of the year last week before winning offensive player of the game honors in the Shrine Bowl, downplayed his recruiting situation.

Brown may not qualify academically, which has ECU and West Virginia in the picture if he should opt to go to college as a non-qualifier academically. Other programs may try to persuade him to work on his grades and test score at a prep school.

Williams regarded highly his Shrine team’s talent at running back.

Jamaal Edwards of Greensboro Dudley has committed to Florida State and Andrew Pearman of Charlotte Providence plans to go to Virginia.

“Pearman consistently ran 4.2s in the 40,” Williams said. “We also knew we had some good receivers — Jamar Bryant of Richmond and Jerome Simpson of Reidsville and we had two talented quarterbacks.”

Despite all the talent, Williams was concerned about getting the players together.

“The greatest challenge is that you’ve got 44 kids who are all-stars and you’ve got a week for them to pull together in terms of chemistry,” Williams said. “I was worried about that on Monday, but Tuesday going to eat on the bus they were singing and chanting, and they put a good effort together on the field.”

Brown and Drew served as offensive captains. Defensive lineman Marque Hall of Marshville Forest Hills and Cotton were the defensive captains.

Williams played his high school football years ago at Millbrook High in Raleigh and took his dream of playing college football to ECU, where he walked on. Despite limited size — 5-7 and about 200 pounds — he got on the field on special teams primarily during Clarence Stasavich’s last season as coach in 1969.

The following year, Williams helped coach the freshman team as a student assistant — when Mike McGee spent his lone season at the Pirate helm — and a coach was born. Williams has also coached successfully at Bertie and Greenville Rose.

“The highlight of my career was just being in the program and being part of the team,” Williams said of his time at ECU. “We weren’t that successful but I learned something about perseverance and the value of hard work.”

His given name is John Evans Williams Jr. and he said he doesn’t know how the nicknames “Chipper” and “Chip” evolved. Maybe because he was a “Chip” off the old block. But it’s appropriate for ECU, whose best motivation has often been from a “chip” on its shoulder.

“My family has a lot of nicknames,” Williams said.

His older son, John E. Williams III, is better known as “Beau.” His younger son, “Bubba,” who was a long snapper at ECU, is actually named Guy Kelly Williams. Bubba Williams will join the staff at New Bern next month. The Williams family is steeped in ECU tradition. Williams’ wife, two sons and a daughter-in-law also went there.

Williams would like to see ECU recruit effectively in its home region.

“Many of the East Carolina teams that have done well have done so with Eastern North Carolina kids with some western North Carolina and out-of-state kids sprinkled in,” Williams said. “I know Coach Thompson is working as hard as he can to corral the best players in the East. East Carolina alumni need to speak up and help keep the athletes in the East at East Carolina. The program has been built on those kids.”

Williams’ own program faces a typical rebuilding year but the junior varsity lost only one game — to Rocky Mount — and figures to contend for another Big East title.

“I think we’ve got a chance to repeat,” Williams said. “We’ve got ability. We’ve just got to find out if we’ve got the heart and desire to get back where we were.”

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02/23/2007 12:39:54 AM

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