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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, July 21, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

War & Peace: Labor Day in the Shankweiler family


It was the famous Friday night game, the last at East Carolina for Steve Logan as Pirates head coach. The 42-26 loss to Cincinnati on Dec. 6 was also the last at ECU for Steve Shankweiler as offensive line coach.

Shankweiler quickly found new work as offensive line coach at Cincinnati and, as fate would have it, his first game with the Bearcats will be against his former program, on Labor Day, Sept. 1. The Conference USA contest will kickoff at noon and will go nationwide on ESPN.

All of those circumstances are interesting but the most compelling aspect of the season opener with respect to “Coach Shank” is that his son, Kort Shankweiler, is a redshirt freshman for the Pirates who moved from quarterback to tight end in ECU’s first spring practice under new coach John Thompson.

“I just told Coach Thompson I wanted to do what was good for the team,” said the younger Shankweiler. “Instead of waiting behind Paul (Troth) and Desmond (Robinson), I wanted a chance to get on the field. We both thought it would be good for me and the team.”

The elder Shankweiler left behind one of the top-rated offensive lines in the country. The unit that he nurtured has been taken over by associate head coach J.B. Grimes, ECU’s new offensive line coach under Thompson.

ECU’s first game puts Coach Shankweiler in the rather unique position of trying to beat his old team and his son, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on Aug. 31, the day before the game.

“We’ve talked about it,” Kort said. “Before the game he’ll be my dad. During the game, we both want to help our teams win. After the game, he’ll be my parent again. We’ll see what happens.”

Coach Shankweiler said it hasn’t been determined if he will be on the sideline or in the pressbox at 35,000-seat Nippert Stadium when the Pirates, who lead the series with Cincy 12-3, come to town.

“It’s like, ‘Hey, I love you but when the game starts, it’s business,’ ” said the Bearcats rookie coach, who spent 10 years on the ECU staff — including working for former head coach Bill Lewis when ECU beat N.C. State 37-34 in the Peach Bowl to complete an 11-1 season in 1991.

Shankweiler left with Lewis for Georgia Tech after the ’91 season and was offensive coordinator for the Yellow Jackets for three years, but decided to coach on the high school level in Georgia after Lewis struggled and was deposed in Atlanta. He returned to Greenville in 1998 as offensive line coach for Logan.

The guys in the trenches for the Pirates this season will include Brian Rimpf, Doug White, Charlie Dempsey, Brian Fox, Corey Schmidt, Gary Freeman, Hunter Wood and Hagen Mason. Coach Shankweiler was involved in the recruitment and development of all of them.

Rimpf, a fifth-year senior who graduated in May, knows it will be a highly-unusual situation.

“During the game I’m not going to know who’s over there,” said Rimpf, a Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy candidate. “Leading up to the game I’ll be thinking about it and after the game I’ll go up and say, ‘Hey,’ and just talk I guess.”

Coach Shankweiler and wife Patti began living in Cincinnati just after Easter. They’ve been enjoying some of what the city had to offer.

Shankweiler has become a big Cincinnati Reds fan and has seen a lot of the club’s home games. He says Bearcats coach Rick Minter is a huge baseball fan. Fittingly, considering the circumstances, Kort happened to be an excellent baseball player at Greenville Rose and for the Pitt County American Legion team before deciding to focus on football at ECU.

Coach Shankweiler said the biggest adjustment is the friends he left behind.

“We spent 10 years in Greenville and all three of our children graduated from Rose High,” he said. “There are a lot of friends that you make based on your children’s situation. What I missed most is just the people and a lot of friendships. The good part is that we’re making new friends here and hopefully we’ll be able to sustain both sets of friendships.”

The job itself is pretty similar to his work in Greenville.

“You hear people talking about differences," said the coach, “but offensive line coaching is offensive line coaching. The idea is to knock people down when you’re running and protect the quarter back. The fundamentals are the same."

Cincinnati had significant graduation losses to deal with. The new Bearcats O-line boss said his team lost its all-time sack leader, the program’s all-time receptions leader and the leading interceptions leader.

“Replacing them is as big an issue as who we are playing,” Shankweiler said. “We weren’t settled on an offensive line in the spring.”

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02/23/2007 12:40:33 AM

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