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Greg Gardill – Blue Collar Guy


Pirate Time Machine No. 3

With Ron Cherubini
©2001 Bonesville.net

Not much has changed, sort of, since Greg Gardill last strapped on the Pirate gear that historic day in Atlanta, when East Carolina capped a dream of a season with the win over North Carolina State.

When he comes home from his job, he’s wearing the grime of the turf, the sweat of another physical day in the trenches. And he is exhausted, yet exhilarated for again successfully prevailing over a bunch of heavier, bigger opponents across the line from him.

Today, however, Gardill is a cattleman and his foes aren’t really foes, they are his 300 head of corn-fed, pure Somerset County, Pa., cattle, which he raises to supply beef to businesses and consumers in Western Pennsylvania.


Gardill with some of his co-workers.

"Blue Collar," they call it, and Gardill, for one, is damn proud of it. From his prep playing days in Johnstown, Pa, to his college days in Greenville and back to his life at home in Johnstown, Gardill has been consistently low key, workman-like, and above all, successful. Moreover, he has been happy all the way.

“I love it,” he said of his livelihood. “Every day I get up, it's something new. One day I’m a plumber fixing the water line, the next day I’m a mechanic repairing the harvester.  Then I’m a veterinarian. You just never know what each day is going to bring... and I like that.

“Yesterday, a couple of the bulls got into a shed and were fighting, so I was a carpenter yesterday and today... today I was a delivery guy.”

The 15 to 20 hour days feel good to the former defensive end/tackle and he gets through each day much like he did as a player…he works hard.

“I guess I am really proud of being blue collar,” he said. “I take a certain pride in doing things myself.”

That attitude, along with a love for what he does, defined Gardill from a young age, growing up in one of the steel towns that line the route between the State Capital in Harrisburg to Pittsburgh in Western, Pennsylvania.

It was always football, family, and farming that most interested Gardill.

Gardill prepped at two different schools, first going to Bishop McCort – where he is an assistant coach today – and finishing high school at Johnstown High. At Johnstown, his coach, Jerry Davitch, would end up being more than just a coach, but also a cherished adviser — and the man who eventually helped Gardill find his way to ECU.

With Prop 48 status hanging on the results of a grade in English his senior year, many of the schools that were recruiting him were backing off. Though the 6’2”, 235 pound offensive guard and defensive lineman was being recruited by the likes of Notre Dame, Penn State, West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh, it was East Carolina that stuck with him to the bitter end – when he did get his “B” in English to fully qualify. And it was his coach, Davitch, who put things into perspective for Gardill, who lived by his mentor's mantra.

“My high school coach kept telling me, ‘You can go to a place where you could get red-shirted and then hang around for a couple of years before eventually playing in 22 football games.  Or you can go to a place where you can play 44 games.’ That really made me think. I realized that there are only 44 games, 44 opportunities left to play football.”

He chose East Carolina and played in 44 of 45 games, finishing with four letters and spending three seasons as a starter, where he remained injury-free.


Gardill during his game days as an ECU Pirate.

“I look back and think of Coach 'D' telling me 44 games not 22. I was playing as a freshman at ECU. It was neat how it all came together. I like to think I enjoyed every possible moment,” he reflected. “I was very much a practice player, too. I did absorb it all and I’m glad when I look back on it…I really enjoyed it.”

What made his career even sweeter were the moments where his past intersected with his future.

For instance, as a freshman at ECU, he was in a class that included two players from Maryland, who were both on the Maryland roster for the “Big 33” game that pitted prepsters from Maryland against the top 33 from Pennsylvania. Gardill was left off the Pennsylvania roster, though he was among the nominees and was an all-state player.

“I heard it a lot from those two about the Big 33,” he said. “But in the end, they didn’t make it through the program.”

There were other moments, too. Throughout his career, he would be part of ECU teams that knocked off Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia — all teams that backed off on Gardill.

 “(ECU’s) schedule really impressed me. Man, they would play anyone,” he said. “During my freshman season, we were 3-8, and in October alone, we played Florida State, Miami, Syracuse and West Virginia at a time when they were four of the top five teams in the nation. When I was looking at schools, I was thinking, ‘ECU plays a powerhouse schedule’ and I was thinking, ‘I’m going to make those teams who passed on me pay for it.’”

Had he gone another direction, Gardill acknowledges that his football career would not have been as dramatic.

“My freshman year we were 3-8 with a heck of a schedule. Sophomore year was a transition year for coach (Bill) Lewis’ first season. We still had guys who didn’t believe that year. By my junior year, we had all started believing we could be competitive, and we were. We had four losses that totaled maybe 14 points. We just needed that little umphhhh,” he said. “My senior year, the team came together. Llike Coach Lewis said, ‘If you believe in yourself and in each other, great things will happen.’ That is really how it was, it didn’t matter if the other team was driving late in the game to win it or if it was us, we really believed we would win. That whole ‘I Believe’ thing was very real to us.”

Gardill said he sensed that becoming a reality with the team just before the South Carolina game in 1991.

“South Carolina had really owned us,” Gardill said. “I can remember playing Carolina before that season and they just always would come out on top. (The 1991 contest) was one game we went out and just played and everything bounced our way and people made things happen and we ended up beating them and that is when the ‘I Believe’ motto got out to everyone.”

And at the end, after the Peach Bowl, Gardill clearly remembers his thoughts.

“That night, after the game, it was, like, tranquil and I remember thinking, ‘Thank God, everything happened the way it should have.’ I still enjoy it, and at the time, I thought ‘this (feeling) will never be over, I’ll always be able to enjoy it because I lived it.’”

Today, it manifests itself in many ways. His fishing buddies call him “Peach Bowl” and his two-month old baby girl bears the initials E.C., for Elizabeth Caroline. His wife, D.A., whom he met while at ECU, in his words, “bleeds purple and gold,” and is as a big a Pirate fan as you’ll find.


Greg and D.A. Gardill

The only difference these days is that instead of roaming the turf at Dowdy-Ficklen, Gardill roams the sod of his 500-acre farm, working the land with his father Rob, the gentleman farmer.

During the week, Gardill finishes his day coaching football at Bishop McCort, where he is able to rekindle, though not recapture, the camaraderie he greatly misses from his days as a Pirate player. He shares his lessons learned from his playing days with his players.

“Football… working hard… nothing ever comes easy,” he said. “I tell this to the kids I’m coaching now. I tell them, ‘If it’s worth anything, you got to work at it.’

“Having fun, too. If you’re not having fun, if you’re not getting something out of it, it’s not worth doing. I can’t see being in a job that is not fun. I can’t see that. I couldn’t survive that life. You better have fun if you’re working 12 hours a day.”

Today, his 12-hour days are just that, a rare combination of self-satisfaction, fun, and hard work. For something that started out as a hobby for his dad, older brother Bobby, and himself, the cattle business has been good to him and his family.

And, true to form, his proudest moments are when he takes a chance to reflect on the work he is doing and the family he has.

“I joke with D.A. sometimes,” he said. “I’ll call up to the house and ask her what she is doing and she’ll say, ‘I’m feeding the baby,’ and I’ll say, ‘I’m feeding the cows,’ and we’ll laugh about that being all we're ever doing, feeding the girls. (D.A.) is doing a great job of being a mother and I’m just there trying to give her a lot of support. We’ve got our dog, Jake… the baby… yeah, things are going pretty good.

“I guess I’m just a farmer…I love my farm.”


The Gardill Family Farm

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GREG GARDILL BIO BOX
Name:

Greg Gardill
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Age:

31
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Sport:

Football
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Years at ECU:

1987-91
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Position/Jersey No.

Defensive End/ No. 59
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Hometown:

Johnstown, PA
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Currently Resides:

Johnstown, PA
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Occupation:

Cattleman
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ECU Degree(s)
  • BS Resource Management

Marital Status:

Married
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Significant Other:

D.A.
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Children:

Elizabeth Caroline (2 months)


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Quotable: 

“D.A. bleeds purple and gold. She wanted (E.C.) to be (Elizabeth’s) initials. That’s where we met, at ECU. And D.A.’s such an ECU fanatic – more than me. I love ECU, but if you cut her, she bleeds purple and gold.”
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TEN QUESTIONS

1. Who is your favorite current Pirate and Why?

“Last year, we went down to West Virginia for the game and that linebacker… (Pernell) Griffin, he’s a good one. And we really liked watching that (Keith) Stokes…he was a pretty good guy to watch.”
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2. What do you miss most about ECU?

“I miss, you know… I miss the comradery and the atmosphere of a college town and everything goes with that. The game day hoopla, the tailgating. I can remember driving in the bus to the game and  you could smell the diesel gas, the grass, all the food cooking at the tailgate…I miss the whole  setting.”
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3. Where is your favorite spot on the ECU campus?

“My favorite spot on the campus was probably the locker room in the new building. It was new then. We were the first people to move into the new building. Everything was brand new. The coaches were there, the weight room, it was great to be the first players in that building.”
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4. What was your dorm room and favorite dorm story?

“Scott 115. Sean McConnell was my roommate and we were pranksters. We just had so much fun being college kids. Going out and stealing pumpkins around this time of year, having carving contests…that kind of stuff.”
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5. Greatest Moment as a Pirate football player?

“It may be my pride, but my greatest moment was probably that whole season my senior year. To go out and lose that first game and then win the rest. Week in and week out, climbing the polls each week…that whole season…capped off with a bowl win. Few things in life get that exciting.”
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6. Most disliked opponent?

“We only played them once, but I have to say I hate N.C. State. When we came in, it was instilled in us that we would never play them again because (Pirate fans) were too crazy. To me, the goalpost thing…that is what a rivalry is all about. In the bowl game it was awesome. I still tell friends, ‘There is only one Carolina –  East Carolina.”
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7. Athletic Influences?

“The two coaches that influenced me the most,  I could flip a coin. Coach (Jerry) Davitch for his guidance when I was in high school and coach Cary Godette, for everything he did for me in college. My mom (Mary Jo) and dad (Rob), too. (Dad) would pick me up in the lockerroom and we would go out and grab something to eat and we would talk about the game.”
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8. Favorite coach?

“Godette…without a doubt. A great guy, a great coach…just a quality person. Last time I really saw him was when he was coaching in Miami (Dolphins) and they were in Maryland and we went down and saw him. Every now and then, I get a wild hair and give him a call.”
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9. Best Inside Pirate Football Story

“It had to be running to the Student Store naked. I guess it had been a tradition that sort of broke off for about three years, but five of us were bored and had to do something. We decided to bring back the tradition, but we decided to take our helmets along and headed down to the Student Store naked. When we got to that little crick down at the foot of the hill, someone saw a cop, so we all jumped into the stream. I remember Shane Hubble started to talk about that movie, “Stand By Me” and said something about the scene in that movie with the leaches and then said, ‘This is what makes friends forever.’ When we got to the Student Store, we took a picture, like a team picture, with one hand over the privates and the other holding our helmets up in the air. There are still some copies of that picture somewhere out there. I remember it pretty well because when we were in the stream, I was the only one of the five that got Poison Ivy.

 Editor’s Note: Based on purported pictorial evidence, the Naked Five were identified as Gardill, Ken Burnette, Shane Hubble, Chad Grier and Sean McConnell.
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10. Best Emerald City hangout?

“The Sports Pad because it was a Blue Collar type place, where you could shoot pool, and listen to good rock and roll.”
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02/23/2007 02:07:30 PM

 

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