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No. 23

With Ron Cherubini

Terry Gallaher

Odd Fit was Just Right
for a Pat Dye Receiver

Coaches’ impact on Terry Gallaher went far
beyond the white chalk on the football field

By Ron Cherubini

In the absence of a father, Terry Gallaher clung to his coaches for some form of male guidance in his life. Along the way the former Pirate wide receiver found the father he never had in a combination of men who taught him the game of football and the game of life.

This Gallaher catch at Duke strangely ended up being
ruled incomplete — out of bounds (Submitted Photo)

“I named my son Patrick Henry after Coach Pat Dye and Coach Henry Trevathan,” Gallaher said. “My parents divorced when I was young, so I really didn’t have a father. Coaches have always deeply affected my life. I was very immature in high school and these coaches helped keep me in line.”

From his humble athletic beginnings in Warner Robins, GA, at Northside High School, Gallaher found his way to East Carolina through another coach, Frank Orgel. At 5-8, Gallaher was an undersized, but overdriven, running back in those days. Orgel’s wife had been Gallaher’s middle school guidance counselor and her husband had never stopped keeping an eye on the young athlete.

“I never actually played a lot because of my size until I was a senior,” Gallaher said. “I was a small, fast white boy. Running track gave me a lot of opportunity and I was a state champion high hurdler here in Georgia. I succeeded in spite of myself in football.”

Orgel, who once coached prep football in Gallaher’s area, had played with Dye while at Georgia. When Gallaher was a senior in high school, Orgel was recruiting coordinator at the University of North Alabama and the diminutive running back from Northside was one of his chief targets.

“When Coach Dye got the job at East Carolina, Coach Orgel went with him,” Gallaher said. “And he took a lot of us with him.”

Gallaher was part of Dye’s first-ever recruiting weekend at East Carolina. That special weekend didn't happen until January because Dye had honored a coaching commitment to Alabama for a New Year’s Day bowl game. At the time, the signing period was before Christmas, so the kids that had come in were already hanging on.

“Wake Forest was the only Division I school to recruit me and they were 0-11 the year before,” Gallaher said. “Not being very smart, I decided to go to East Carolina to be a teacher instead of Wake to be a lawyer. It was then that I dedicated myself to poverty early on.”

He also committed himself to a coach, rather than a school.

“I had never heard of East Carolina,” he said. “Down here, it was SEC or independents Georgia Tech or Florida State. And Miami was not even a big school. So when I signed and went there, a lot of people around here thought I had gone to a Division III school. Coach Dye was the first East Carolina coach who went south for his players.”

To Gallaher, Dye was more than a coach, he was a mentor with no parallel.

“Coach Dye was Bear Bryant junior,” Gallaher said. “I’ve never been through anything like it for sure. Coach Dye can charm you to death. He always recruited the mommas. He knew that when momma decided, players will follow. He sure charmed my momma. She loves that man even today at 82 years old. He can walk on water to her.”

Gallaher admits that he had no clue what he had gotten himself into when he committed to Dye. He left Warner Robins for ECU because of Orgel. Upon arriving in Greenville, he knew right away that Dye was not going to let him or any player have an easy time of it.

“Coach Dye was the first coach to really push my buttons,” Gallaher said. “And Coach (Henry) Trevathan… he was something. Playing split end in the wishbone offense is not a stellar position to play. I played wide guard, really. I looked forward to pre-game because that was the only time we threw the ball. If we were throwing in a game, we were probably behind.”

Gallaher quickly found out that he was going to be a receiver, rather than a running back.

“I’d never been away from home and here I was 10 hours from home and I was more afraid of going home than staying,” he said. “In high school, I played running back my senior year and I was able to rush for over a 1,000 yards. Mostly from fright… if they don’t hit you, you can’t get hurt.

"I went to East Carolina as a running back. But the first time I had to low block Cary Godette, I was ready to change positions. He had bad knees and I tried to hit him low and he about killed me. Ruined my career as a running back. In high school, I could get outside and outrun everyone, but in college, I get out wide and there is a defensive end.”

News clipping from when Gallaher set an NCAA
single-game receiving record (Submitted)

Gallaher’s speed was his advantage, though he jokes about it. As a prepster, he won the Georgia state high hurdles championship. Later on, he briefly ran track at East Carolina.

“I did run for ‘Dollar’ Bill Carson,” Gallaher said. “Man he is a dinosaur… still coaching today. I quickly learned that the college high hurdles are higher than the high school high hurdles and that my outright speed was outright too slow for college, so I gave it up.”

But it was not too slow for football. So it was off to wide receiver for Gallaher… a position not for the faint of heart in a Pat Dye offense.

“Being a split end in coach Dye’s Wishbone, you were really a blocker,” he said. “You had to be a very different kind of receiver. You were never near anyone and we all kind of bonded. Billy Ray Washington, as bad as I wanted to beat him out, we were close. Vern Davenport and tight end walk on Barry Johnson from Farmville… we all kind of were an odd group.”

Still, Gallaher made a hell of a debut as a receiver – one that landed him in the NCAA Record Book.

“I set an NCAA record, but we were behind in the game,” Gallaher said. “So, it wasn’t really something to get excited about.”

Gallaher’s first three collegiate receptions went for touchdowns and 218 yards. The feat landed him in the record books for yards per catch average for a game. Subsequently, the NCAA broke down the records by number of catches with a 3-4 category and a 5-8, etc… So there it is in black and white, Gallaher’s name alongside players like Randy Moss.

Captain's Coin Toss vs. N.C. State. L to R - Tommy Summers,
LB; Oliver "Brute" Felton, NG; Mitchell Smith, OT; Terry
Gallaher, SE (Submitted)

“When you lead a division I team with 13 receptions in 11 games, that says something. That is the story of my life,” Gallaher said with tongue in cheek.

Gallaher, in reality, made his name by being a tenacious blocker and a timely receiver.

“After the ’75 season, I didn’t catch too many touchdowns,” he said. “Games I caught touchdowns in weren’t really highlights for me. Blocking was my thing. I remember when we beat N.C. State my senior season. Ted Brown was playing for State and they were supposed to beat us badly and we beat them. We were a thorn in a lot of people’s sides and many of the instate schools didn’t want to play us after awhile.”

Gallaher’s career was different in a number of ways.

“I didn’t play my freshman year, but I had two senior seasons,” he said. “This is a tough one. In 1974, you could not red shirt freshmen. When I finished my fourth year, it was the following spring that redshirting freshmen began. So after I had already been listed a senior – and I was named the outstanding senior – (ECU) applied the redshirt retroactively to my freshmen year when I had been injured. They played me on scout team and tried to run me off to get my scholarship… I was a body. So, I got a second senior season.”

That extra year was one that Gallaher particularly relished.

TD catch vs. William & Mary, 1975
Submitted Photo

“We had a chance to make the Peach Bowl my junior season and got knocked out by William & Mary, of all teams,” he recalled. “Then, we went 9-2 my first senior season and got no bowl bid. Then, we were 9-3 and got the Independence Bowl and the special thing for me was that it was my 5th year and Coach Dye, and the other coaches all treated me more like a player-coach that year. That was very special to me.”

Though Dye was extra tough, ala his mentor, Bear Bryant, the bullish coach’s methodology turned out to be inspirational to his overworked and over-eager-to-please players.

“He motivated us by reminding us constantly of the fact that we were all rejects from somewhere else,” Gallaher said. “That we were the type of team that goes 9-2 and gets nothing for it. But, he also reminded us that we could play with anybody in the country.”

That was a mighty dose of Dye mind games and it worked with this bunch of Pirates. And Gallaher points to quite a few “inspiring” stories.

“Anytime we played an ACC school, we would get fired up, but when we played Sonny Randle’s Virginia team, (Dye) had us really (fired up),” Gallaher said. “He reminded us that Coach Randle left (ECU) for (better pastures). How Coach Randle would always say that you can’t compare the ACC to East Carolina because it was comparing apples to oranges.

Group of ECU players pose in Charlottesville (vs. Virginia): L to
R - Rick Bennett, OT; Jimbo Walker, OG; Wilbur Williamson,
SE; Terry Gallaher, SE (Submitted Photo)

“So, we went out there, beat them 63-14 or something like that and I remember all of the (ECU) fans who went up there were throwing oranges on the field and wouldn’t you just know that Chancellor (Leo) Jenkins was the guy throwing the most oranges.”

There were other games.

“Beating (North) Carolina was great,” he said. “We beat them 38-14 when Bill Dooley was there. It was made more gratifying for me because his brother, Vince, was at Georgia at the time and being from Georgia, it was very special to me. Of course I also played in the 12-10 loss and had the distinction of having my ribs broken by a little freshman named Lawrence Taylor at the end of the game when he hit me clean into the fence they have over there.”

There was also the South Carolina game.

“We were their homecoming game and they had this little running back named George Rogers, who happened to go on and win the Heisman Trophy a couple of years later, but we were beating them at the half. Then they came back and won a close one.”

While at East Carolina, Gallaher said that he learned many things from his coaches about being a man. For that, he will always cherish those years and those men who so amply filled in for the father he never had.

And, he learned a great deal about coaching.

“Coach Dye taught me so much about taking average players and making them play above their abilities and taking the better players and keeping them that way,” Gallaher said. “If you can do that with your players, you’re going to win games. A coach has to make the kids think they are better than they really are.”

ECU receiver Terry Gallaher (left) with
quarterback Leander Green (Submitted)

When his career at East Carolina was said and done, Gallaher made a pretty good accounting for himself. In addition to the NCAA record-setting performance against Appalachian State, Gallaher finished as a four-year starter; claimed the school, single-season average yards per catch record (33.3); was named to the 2nd team Associated Press All South Independent team (1977); was the Greenville, NC Touchdown Club Athlete of the Year (1977); won the Swindell Memorial Award (1977 & 1978); and was the team captain in 1978.

Not a bad resume for a little “split guard” trying to play catch in a running offense.

Gallaher felt the pull of coaching towards the end of his playing career, but resisted initially after his eligibility ended at East Carolina.

“I signed a free agent contract with Ottawa,” Gallaher said of giving it a go in the Canadian Football League. “Coach Trevathan helped get me that opportunity and I thought there would be a real chance up there. Being a receiver in the Wishbone wasn’t a really good training ground for the NFL and in Ottawa, it seemed like I spent more time coaching the other receivers and they were taking my job. That’s when I really caught the coaching bug, so I went and begged Coach Dye to let me be a Graduate Assistant coach for him and he said ‘Yes.’ Unfortunately, it was his (Dye's) last year at East Carolina.”

After being cut by Ottawa and getting the green light from Dye, Gallaher returned to ECU and, among other things, finished his undergraduate degree. As a coach, Dye assigned him the role of managing the scout team offense, a thankless job that, in the long run, turned out to be a great way to learn a bunch about football strategy in a short period of time.

“I learned a lot about many different offenses,” he said. “You learn a lot when you have to learn a new offense each week.”

His collegiate coaching career ended after the one season, following Dye’s departure to Wyoming.

“Really, it came down to the need to have a paying job,” he said. “In college coaching at the bottom of the ladder, there is not that much money. When Ed Emory came in, the first thing he told all of us is that we were fired. As it turned out, I worked the spring (through his contract) for Ed Emory and then, it just so happened, that I got an opportunity to coach at Tucker High School in the suburbs of Atlanta.”

It was a chance for Gallaher, a history teacher by trade, to actually earn a living and continue to coach. He has remained in the prep coaching ranks since. After 23 years as a high school football and track coach, Gallaher has finally hung up the cleats – this year.

“This is the first year (Gallaher has spare time),” he said. “I just gave up coaching this year and part of that is to spend time with my kids. I spent 23 years with other kids. I can even read a book now. I didn’t realize how much time coaching took up.”

As a football coach, Gallaher has never been the head honcho, though he was top coach for track.

“I never have been a head coach,” he said. “Here in Georgia, in this town, there are 12 or 13 coaches on the staff. It's like a small college staff. Had the opportunity ever come, I was prepared to be a head coach. But, my family became the priority.”

His coaching career has allowed him to travel full circle in his life. From Tucker High School, he moved to his own alma mater, coaching at Northside High School, before moving along to his last prep post at Warner Robins (which also produced current Pirate Drew Sutton).

Terry Gallaher in his coaching days
at Warner Robins High School
(Photo: Warner-Robins website)

“I made it back to Warner Robins,” he said. “I went to Northside High school (where current Pirate Jermarcus Veal played) and I am retiring at Warner Robins.”

He likes home.

“In some ways, I do regret leaving (Greenville) sometimes,” he said. “Mainly because when I came back to Georgia, I had no past. I wouldn’t trade my years at East Carolina for anything, but I know now that it is just wonderful here, having my family here.”

Gallaher was a well-respected football coach and made a name for himself as a head coach in track.

“Track was my real love in high school,” he said. “I was the head coach for both the girls and boys. I always felt like track was good for all sports. You can take athletes from any background and find (a track pursuit) for them. It is highly individualized, but also a team sport. To run a track practice is like organized chaos. But it is a cooperative learning environment.”

So, now in retirement, Gallaher is again very much that boy on the edge of beginning a new journey. He is excited about time. Time to be with his kids, Rachel and Patrick Henry – both in high school. Time to be with his wife Gail, with whom he has been married for 22 years. Time to play with their two Dachsunds, Max and Raider, who are much like their third and fourth children.

And time, mostly, for himself to do those things that the life of a coach precludes.

“I always tell myself, my day (for complete freedom) is coming,” he laughed. “My day is coming. My only fear is that I die before my time comes. And if that happens… I’m going to be very mad about it.”

He plays golf, though he admits that his game suffers because he only picked it up when his body made him stop playing competitive softball. He keeps his two Dachsunds, Max and Raider, busy. And he plans to finally get back to Greenville, maybe even take in a few games and relive some old times as a Pirate.

“East Carolina gives me a special sense of pride,” he said. “That school gave me choices in life. There are not a lot of ECU banners down here, except mine. I’m a Pirate through and through and now that I have less hair, I can even wear a do-rag and look like a Pirate.”

He can move into this new phase in life because he knows that as a coach and teacher, he is satisfied with his work.

More than the strategies and the managing of athletes, Gallaher revealed that there was a deeper meaning to his coaching career.

“I definitely could say that I gravitated to those kids that were struggling with something,” he said. “I was told in middle school that I was too small to play (football). So I never look at a kid and make that determination because you just don’t know what a kid is capable of with the right support. You don’t want to extinguish that fire. Maybe I give too much of a chance sometimes. I’ve been real fortunate to be part of some pretty good programs and around some really good young men and women.”

Gallaher gave back in the most personally significant way he could. Life lessons learned from his former coaches were well-heard.

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K.K. Walker
No. 37, CB 1981-852

Daniel Boone
Ken Burnette
Luke Fisher
Greg Gardill
Leander Green
Chad Grier
Jim Gudger
Daren Hart
Shane Hubble
Sean McConnell

Mike Myrick

Norman Quick
Jody Schulz
Vinson Smith
Ken Strayhorn
Don Tyson
Zack Valentine
Tabari Wallace
Pat Watkins
George Wheeler
Pete Zophy
Kevin Walker



Terry Gallaher (Bunk)





Years at ECU:


Position/Jersey No.

Split End / No. 81


Warner Robins, GA

Currently Resides:

Centerville, GA


High School History Teacher /
Retired Football Coach


  • BS History, East Carolina University
  • MEd, Georgia Southwestern College

Marital Status:

Married - Gail (Morse)

  • Rachel Elyse, 16

  • Patrick Henry, 14

Gail, Patrick & Rachel Gallaher


“I showed my (players) the NCAA record books with me and Randy Moss in the same group and they can’t believe it. I tell them not to talk the talk unless they can walk the walk. Being a history teacher, I can (get away) with telling them a little bit about history… talk the talk.”


1. Who is your favorite current Pirate and why?

“Not so much, in particular as far as a single player. I do try to keep up with the kids from my area. I will be looking for Drew (Sutton) to do well and we always pull for Jermarcus Veal.”

2. What do you miss most about ECU?

“Probably Venters’ Grill and those sweet potato biscuits. That was my connection to home (while at ECU) and then I spent a lot of time at the Crow’s Nest and Newbies Subs. Their T-shirt said, ‘Eat a big one.’”

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

“The mall area. We spent a lot of time throwing Frisbees there. Really we were trying to catch a look at the girls. That was one thing about ECU and probably the real reason I went there: Plenty of (female) scenery. It used to be ECTC so the coed population outweighed the male. I wasn’t very good at math, but I could figure that one out.”

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

“At that time, we were all in Belk Dorm on the bottom floors. The football players were on one end and the basketball players on the other. My suitemates were Steve Hale (current executive director of the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL) and Ronnie Barnes (NY Giants trainer). Better not share any real stories. I do remember when I first went there, Coach (Pat) Dye would take everyone’s car keys. But still, in the middle of the night, you would hear cars crankin’ up and never see them again.”

5. Greatest Moment as a Pirate football player?

“Looking back, obviously being fortunate to set an NCAA record against Appalachian State in 1975 when the first three passes I caught in college went for 218 yards and three TDs. (Record is for average yards per catch, in a game in which Gallaher averaged 72 yards per reception). Mike Weaver threw two and Pete Conaty threw the other. We were behind and we lost the game so I wasn’t really even conscious of what I had done. (Note – The NCAA broke this statistical category into 3-4 catches, 5-8 catches, etc… ). The player who holds record for the next category up is Alexander Wright. His coach? Pat Dye while at Auburn. And he is known as a running coach. Amazing!”

6. Most disliked opponent?

“Oh gosh… Chapel Hill. As we use to say, ‘Wake is Fake, Duke is Puke, but the team I hate is NC State!’ Anything with Navy Blue on can’t be good. If Carolina played Russia, I’d pull for Russia.”

7. Athletic Influences?

“My high school track coach Bob Griffin, who also coached football. He had a lot of impact on me. Kept me pointed in the right direction. Not having a father, I sometimes wasn’t the most focused person in the world. He’s had a great career coaching in GA.”

8. Favorite coach?

“It would be Dye, (Henry) Trevathan and (Frank) Orgel. I can’t say one over the other. Orgel brought me to East Carolina, Trevathan kept me there, and Dye tried to run me out of there. Made me a semi-mature human being.”

9. Best Locker Room Story

“Coach Dye had a tower in between the two practice fields. We had a V-shaped huddle on offense and the split ends brought in the plays and would stand behind the quarterback. When we were having a bad practice, he would come down from the tower. I could see Coach Dye coming and I would slide out of the huddle before he would get there. He would proceed to motivate people and I would act like I was out of the play. When he came down and the hair on his neck was standing up like an old bulldog, someone was fixin’ to get motivated. For a little guy, he could move big people around pretty good. You didn’t want him motivating you up-close too many times.”

10. Best Greenville nightspot in your day?

“Downtown – all of it. Being a split end in that offense, I was obviously a little different. I liked going to the Attic. And sometimes, there would be a local Georgia band who would play there and we would hang with them. And also, Pantana Bob’s. Met my wife there. My wife (Gail) was a great foosball player and that is where I met my wife. Les Strayhorn introduced me to her. We were friends and I had long hair in a pony tail and Les introduced me to her.”


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