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Pirate
Time
Machine
No. 8

With Ron Cherubini
©2001 Bonesville.net

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Three Decades Later, Captain of
the 'Wild Dogs' is Back in Town

Whenever the Pirates are home on a football Saturday, Mike Myrick can be found in his seat at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, watching his alma mater. But sometimes, as he takes in all the trappings of the stadium and the surrounding campus, he is transported back – in his mind – to gritty evening practices on what is now called Bagwell Field.

Back then, when a practice ran late into the evening, all available cars were rounded up and the team would run drills by car light in preparation for Southern Conference clashes on Saturdays.

“We would practice late in the evenings with car lights because there were no (field) lights then,” Myrick recalled. “You try a few punt returns under car light and its gets pretty rough out there. To go and see the facilities now, it is truly amazing.”

Myrick has a keen sense of history. It was long ago that he and his teammates, on the very same field, engineered a pair of back-to-back Southern Conference titles under the guidance of Sonny Randle. In practical terms, the players of that era ushered in the beginning of the rapid rise of the East Carolina football program – a contribution that makes Myrick proud.

“It was unbelievable to be at the start of when ECU went big-time in college football,” he said. “Basically, we dominated in our last few years in the Southern Conference and we were very proud of what we did. We were just that building block that the program needed. It really was exciting to be part of that (era), to play North Carolina and North Carolina State. We all sensed that it was just a matter of time and I am excited to have been a part of that beginning.”


Photo from 1973 East Carolina Pirate Football Media Guide cover,
featuring, left to right, QB and offensive captain Carl Summerell,
Coach Sonny Randle, and DB and defensive captain Mike Myrick.
Click the picture for a full view of the cover image.

Myrick was a heady defensive back for the Pirates from 1970-73, relying on his physicality as a hitter and his knowledge as a two-way performer, playing wide receiver on the offensive side of the ball. An All-Southern Conference performer as a senior, Myrick epitomized the very fighter mentality that has served the ECU program so well.

“The (atmosphere) was incredible then,” he said. “Leo (Jenkins) had fought with Carolina on the med school, and as players we fought to be competitive day in and day out. Coach Stasavich before us, Coach (Mike) McGee, Coach Randle and all the coaches and players after us have fought the fight (to gain respect).”

On the field, Myrick gained respect through a strong desire to succeed and a natural penchant for leadership.

Coming out of Goldsboro High School, the wide receiver-linebacker prospect didn’t have many options football-wise. Small schools were interested, but his unique situation at home also had him wanting to stay close-by.

“I really didn’t have a bunch of offers,” he said. “The main reason was that (ECU) was close to home and Coach McGee said if I made the team, then I would get a scholarship, so I walked on.”

McGee’s promise meant more to Myrick than many would know.

At home, Myrick was the eldest of six children. At 16, his father died unexpectedly at the age of 39 — and the teen-aged boy quickly became a man.

“I kind of had to walk the straight and narrow a little bit more than the other kids,” he said. “I had a very, very good outer family of uncles and aunts and they really came through. They would even come to the (high school) games and that helped me a lot.”

The discipline gained from a forced maturity beyond his years paved the way for success on the Pirate football field.

“To be truthful, I just loved to catch the football and to hit and tackle. At first, (my goal) was just to go out and make the team,” he said. “Then making good enough grades to make sure that I stayed in school and make sure I didn’t spend any money, because (mom) didn’t have it.

“And, mom really came through in that she worked a couple of jobs. All five (of my) brothers and sisters have done well in life and it all comes from our mom, Della.”

But there was another source for Myrick.

“I was very lucky to have some great men as coaches,” he said. “They each, in a way, took over for my dad. Enough kids don’t get that these days, at least not as many. I was a very lucky individual.”

From McGee, who gave him his chance at ECU, to freshman coach Henry Trevathan, to Randle, who helped him achieve greatness, Myrick’s coaches all hold a special place in his heart and are, in large part, responsible for the man Myrick became after college.

“We had a particularly close freshman team,” he recalled. “And even though we were 0-5, Coach Trevathan really brought us together and made us players. I thought Mike (McGee) was a really good guy and a good coach. Very polished. But, he was passing through, as a lot of coaches have at ECU, but I will always think highly of him.

“And (Sonny) Randle — I was very excited when he was given the job. He was an assistant for McGee and he was a receiver’s coach. I thought it was great, being a receiver, too. On game days, Sonny wasn’t much, but he did such a great job of bringing coaches in for that. During the week, he was by far the best coach I have seen. In particular in the passing game. He helped me so much at becoming a defensive back.”

Becoming a defensive back was tough at first. When Randle was hired, he was ecstatic. As the third receiver heading into the Purple-Gold game, Myrick was pumped up about the season. But, as it often goes, the team became thin on defensive backs and Myrick was the only receiver who liked to hit. So, he was switched.

“I was really disappointed because I could catch. And playing for Sonny, I knew that we were going to be a very good throwing team and I wanted to be part of that offensive machine,” he said. “That was my mark in high school. I led the freshman team (at ECU) in (receiving) yardage and first downs. But, it couldn’t have worked out any better for me in the end. Our defensive teams really came together and changed the mindset. I played with some great, great guys on defense, some good local boys from around here.”

Those boys, as he puts it, helped change ECU’s program. After a disappointing 4-6 season in Randle’s first year at the helm, the Pirates took off, posting back-to-back 9-2 championship teams. Though Randle’s offense was a juggernaut, the era is perhaps better known for having given birth to the original “Wild Dog” defense at ECU.


Myrick in his days as an All-Southern Conference defensive back

“We ran a 4-4-3 defense then, and my senior year I played strong corner,” he said. “Our defense was nationally ranked and (Danny) Kepley led a great set of linebackers. I got to play with some real good ballplayers.

“Sonny loved his offense — it was his deal. And over on the defense, there was a spirited determination to play better than the offense. Scrimmages were something else. Against Sonny’s offense, (the scrimmages) got really, really rough. To this day, there are some offensive and defensive linemen that still don’t speak to one another. We had some good battles between the wide receivers and the defensive backs. It was such a great experience to be part of those defensive teams.”

Not surprisingly, in 1973, Myrick was the captain of that “Wild Dog” defense. It would be a sign of things to come.

After graduating with a degree in History, Myrick went on a to a long, distinguished career in the United States Air Force, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In his military career, he was able to satisfy a burning passion to travel. And in true leadership form, Myrick took himself to those places, as a navigator on a C-130, logging more than 4000 hours in his 12 years of flying. And, again, in typical fashion, Myrick was the squadron’s den mother.

“Our whole C-130 squadron, I pretty much took care of every body,” he said. “My wife always tells me I should write a book about it, but I have always been that way. I had to take care of things – I could not lose control. I think that comes from my childhood. I used to have to make sure the lights were out, the doors shut and locked and that everyone was in their proper beds.”

Myrick climbed the ranks quickly, serving in the Chief of Command Post in Guam. Faced with a decision that many command personnel face in their careers, Myrick chose not to follow the path to the general ranks, which tends to frequently go through the Pentagon. Instead, he opted to take a command in the Air Force ROTC. Ironically, he would serve as AFROTC commandant at Texas Tech University, followed by his final post as the commandant at East Carolina — completing a path that took him full circle and allowed him to finish his career helping young men and women at the very location that gave him his start.

“Being a history major, it was just great to be able to see up close all of the places that have been so significant in history,” he said. “I had a chance to see them all and serve my country at the same time. And the second part of my career, working with AFROTC, was very rewarding. Getting the chance to help kids become Air Force officers was special. I have a number of kids who still call me.”

Retirement came for Myrick after 22 years in the Air Force. He then coached for a two seasons at Pinehurst High School before taking the job he currently holds as the General Manager for the Goldsboro/Wayne County ABC Board. He and his wife Mahala — a school teacher — have raised three children and make their home in Greenville, a place from which he says they “don’t ever want to leave."

It seems right that Myrick lives within earshot of his alma mater. From an era that so closely illustrates the challenges that ECU continually faces, Myrick is a living example of the University.

“Our team and our university were on such parallel courses then,” he said. “We were fighting to become something and some (people) were fighting to hold us back. But no one would give up. The culture on campus then was incredible. People like Jenkins, who was an unbelievable chancellor, and Booger Scales, and the Minges family, they were all fighters for this university.

“I’ve learned from them, and from many great coaches here, the value of teamwork. It served me well in the Air Force — I took care of my men and they took care of me. You get things done by working with each other and, because of ECU, I believe in working hard and playing hard, nurturing relationships with people, enjoying the times together. I am an eternal optimist, blessed with a great family life. And I believe that family and friends are the most important thing in this world.”

So it is with a big smile, when Myrick drifts back in his mind to those days, that he remembers a group of young men, all of whom he considers extended family, who were fighting the fight of a university. And when he surveys the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium field and the campus today, he sees that the fight was well-waged.

Send an e-mail message to Ron Cherubini.

Click here to dig into Ron Cherubini's Bonesville archives.
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Pirate Time Machine Archives

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MIKE MYRICK BIO BOX
Name:

Mike Myrick

Age:

49
.

Sport:

Football
.

Years at ECU:

1970-73
.

Position/Jersey No.

Safety/ No. 26
.

Hometown:

Goldsboro, NC
.

Currently Resides:

Greenville, NC
.

Occupation:

- Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)

- General Manager, Goldsboro/Wayne Co. ABC Board
.

ECU Degree(s)
  • BA, History (ECU)

  • Masters Public Admin. (University of Oklahoma)

Marital Status:

Married
.

Significant Other:

Mahala Myrick
.

Children:
  • Melanie (23)

  • David (21)

  • Wes (17)

Quotable: 

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness… Go Pirates!!!”
.

Mike Myrick was a co-captain and one of the star players on East Carolina's 1973 Southern Conference Championship team. This photo appeared in the November 10, 1973 game program for that season's championship game between ECU and Richmond, which the Pirates won 44-14 before a then-record Ficklen Stadium crowd of 21,251.

TEN QUESTIONS

1. Who is your favorite current Pirate and Why?

“Sam Narron, starting pitcher on the ECU baseball team. The reason I like Sam is because he epitomizes the term “student athlete.”  He’s been selected as an All-American for his efforts on the baseball field and is always on the Dean’s List for academics.”
.
.

2. What do you miss most about ECU?

“The football games, the basketball games, the concerts and Thursday nights downtown.”
.

3. Where is your favorite spot on the ECU campus?

“Alpha Z Delta House.”
.

4. What was your dorm room and favorite dorm story?

“106 Belk Dorm.  One Sunday morning, my roommate Darrel the “Hawk” Harrison and I decided to wake our suite-mate Cary Godette up early.  We used firecrackers and scared him to death.  He chased me down the hill, across the campus, and finally ran out of breath when we were coming back up the hill.  If he would have caught me, he would have killed me.” 
.

5. Greatest Moment as a Pirate football player?

“Two back-to-back Southern Conference Championships in 1972 and 1973.”
.

6. Most disliked opponent?

“University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.”
.

7. Athletic Influences?

“Hal Stewart, Bruce Price, Henry Trevathan, Sonny Randle.”
.
.

8. Favorite coach?

“Bruce Price (junior high football/baseball coach).”
.
.

9. Best Lockerroom Story

“One time the referees came in to check the players’ pads and equipment before the game.  Coach Randle started talking to them about some previous calls that were made the week before.  He wanted to insure they would not happen during this game.  The conversation got so heated that the referees threw a flag in the locker room and when we started the game, we had a 15-yard penalty against Coach Randle.”
.

10. Best Emerald City hangout?

“Elbow Room.”
.

 

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02/23/2007 02:08:28 PM

 

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