GREENVILLE East Carolina football coach
Skip Holtz told media at the outset of preseason practice that defensive
tackles coach Thomas "Rock" Roggeman was going to be undergoing cancer
Roggeman asked that
his health situation not become a distraction for the team and Holtz
indicated his support in respecting those wishes.
a 19-14 win over Central Florida
in ECU's Conference USA opener on Saturday, Holtz shared that Coach
"Rock" had been called upon to deliver pregame remarks to the Pirates.
"I want to give Rock his privacy with
what he's going through," Holtz said. "We addressed that at the
beginning of camp. With his cancer, they're going to have to increase
some of what they're doing. Rock is probably going to be hospitalized
Monday. He's got a tough fight."
What did the Notre Dame letterman speak
to the Pirates about?
"Being proud to wear the purple and
gold," Holtz said.
That was all the ECU coach was able to
say about the inspiration provided by Roggeman before the Pirates held
the opposition to a season low point production.
"It's emotional for me," Holtz said.
Roggeman joined Holtz's staff at ECU on Dec.
17, 2004. He coached linebackers in 2005 and outside
linebackers in 2006. He became defensive tackles coach in 2007 and has
remained in that position to the present time.
The Pirate players indicated their
respect for Roggeman's contributions to the program and his passion for
the game. Roggeman was a Parade All-America selection as a linebacker at
Sahuaro High in Tucson, AZ, and his dad, Thomas, Sr., is in the Indiana
football hall of fame after coaching on the high school and college
Roggeman was a graduate assistant for
the Fighting Irish under coaches Gerry Faust and Lou Holtz before
beginning a journey that included staff positions at Murray State,
Nevada-Las Vegas, Eastern Michigan, Louisville, Alabama A&M and Alabama
Roggeman has spent his playing and
coaching career on the defensive side of the ball but his circumstances
impact Pirates regardless of their position.
"It was very emotional, an
inspiration," said Pirates quarterback Patrick Pinkey, who completed 27
of 40 passes for 293 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "A
lot of people don't get the opportunity to do what we do, and what Coach
Rock is going through, that's an inspiration to us.
"He's fighting for his life. That's
more than the game of football. We're praying for him and we're going to
keep giving that determination to win each and every week."
Converted tight end and former
quarterback Rob Kass heard the crowd of 43,210 roar after his first
career reception, a 13-yard grab on a pass from Pinkney that led to a
first-and-goal at the Knights' 2-yard line in the third quarter. Wildcat
quarterback Dwayne Harris subsequently overthrew Kass in the end zone
and ECU had to settle for a Ben Hartman field goal and a 13-7 lead.
Kass said the catch excited him but
Roggeman's effect was even greater.
"I've got goose bumps right now," Kass
said. "Coach Rock is just an unbelievable coach. Passionate is not even
one-tenth of what describes Coach Rock. His whole life, his whole being
in football. We appreciate every ounce that he gives us. We appreciate
the emotion that he gives us. ... He is such an incredible coach.
"A lot of people know that he is going
through a tough time right now but we know he's fighting it. He's not
going to be a distraction for us. If anything, he's a point of
motivation for us. Today he gave us a pregame speech. I don't know if
I've ever been more excited or more ready to play after that pregame
Pirate defensive end C.J. Wilson was in
on a pair of sacks as ECU held Central Florida to its season low point
total with the help of five turnovers.
"It was very emotional," Wilson said of
the pregame pep talk. "Coach Rock has been here since I got here. He's
so vocal. Until you've been around Coach Rock, you wouldn't understand
because Coach Rock is a very unique person.
"He's very passionate about football.
He loves it. I've never seen another soul in this world that loves
football more than Coach Rock. Seeing them take him off the field like
that and not knowing if he would be back is very emotional.
"To hear his speech was very emotional.
I'm just glad I had a chance to play under Coach Rock."
Running back Brandon Jackson ran 20
times for a net of 88 yards. He, too, credited Roggeman's influence.
"Whenever he sees me, he says, 'Hi,' to
me," Jackson said. "He pumps me up before the game. He tells me I'm
running hard when I'm running hard. He tells me when I need to improve.
"I just have a great amount of respect
for him and the passion he brings to coaching. That's the kind of person
you want to play for and the kind of person you want in the program with