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