Editor's note: We published Ron Cherubini's original Pirate
Time Machine feature about iconic former East Carolina
player and coach Ed Emory in the 2002 edition of Bonesville
Magazine. That hard-copy publication also included a pair of
related stories: "A Pirate Foresaken — The End of a Dream;"
and "The '83 Team — A Picture of the Future of Pirate
Football." The comprehensive update below was compiled by
Cherubini based on recent interviews with Emory. Links are
also provided to all three of the original feature stories
that appeared in Bonesville Magazine. Since those stories
were published in 2002, Emory has been enshrined in the ECU
Hall of Fame.
Now & Then
Catchin’ Up With a
Pirate Hall of Famer
Legend Ed Emory
in on the ECU Program,
the AD search
and N.C. Prep Football
Emory was once told by a former athletic director that he talked too
much. But as the former Pirate player and coach put it: “Those people
from Raleigh (News & Observer), Charlotte (Observer), and
Sports Illustrated never came all the way to Greenville to hear
Today, Pirate fans simply like to hear Emory talk, whether it is about
his days at East Carolina or about how his Richmond County Raiders are
going to be hard-pressed to return to the state championship this coming
Now that spring ball is over for his Raiders and passing leagues are not
yet going, he had a few moments to share some thoughts on a range of
With the state of East Carolina athletics, and the university in
general, at such a pivotal moment, Emory weighed in on some of the more
pressing issues facing all who love their Pirates. And, he weighed in on
other things less critical.
of Fame Enshrinement
Emory in 2003
(Photo: Richmond Raiders)
October 24, 2003, Ed Emory was honored with his long-awaited induction
the East Carolina University Athletics Hall of Fame. It was a day that the former
Pirate standout player and head coach had long hoped for but believed
might never come.
In the end, the alumni and fan base would be heard –
loudly – and Emory was summoned to the podium to stand beside Dr. Henry VanSant, Jeff Blake, and Vinson Smith to accept enshrinement into the
tangible chronicle of ECU sports history.
wish I could have thanked all of (the people who wrote in),” Emory said.
“You know, I got letters and phone calls from so many people… people who
I didn’t think even knew me. From little towns all over. I coached over
20 years ago and it is hard for me to believe that people still
“That made this old coach feel good. I just wish my mother could have
been there to see it since she was at every game I played. All the
people (in relation to ECU) have been so wonderful to me, making me feel
so loved in the twilight of my career.”
For a man who thought a lifetime of politics over his contributions to
his alma mater — Emory really had resigned himself to never being
counted among the Pirates greatest athletic contributors — it was the
kind of gesture on behalf of the university to which he has steadfastly
pledged allegiance that stirred deep emotion.
“No doubt that I have, in the past, let my mouth overload my butt, and
when I took on Ken Karr, I really let my anger control me,” he recalled.
“I tell my players, ‘He who angers you, controls you,’ and I believe that
back then, I let my anger get the best of me. I didn’t think I ever
would get in (to the Hall) because of politics. I never did anything
that I was ashamed of as a coach. Maybe as a player… but that’s another
Though it took more years than it should have, Emory said he
couldn’t think of a better set of Pirates to share an induction class
“Coming into (the Hall) was perfect,” he said. “With Vinson Smith, one
of my all-time favorite players. Vinson grew up basically in poverty and
look at the man he turned out to be. When he talked about his life and
when he mentioned me, it embarrassed me. He is a fine, fine man, like the
rest of the kids from the ‘80s.
“Jeff Blake was a great, great player and having coached his cousin,
Reggie Branch, I feel kind of connected to Jeff. And, of course, Henry (VanSant).
To come in (to the Hall) with my roommate (in college) was special. Of
course, the bad thing is that everyone thinks we’re the same age because
of it. Henry is 10 years older than me.”
Pirate Club and Alumni Athletes
Emory as ECU Coach
(Photo: ECU SID)
During his years as a coach, Emory came to depend on the people around
the program as much or more than he did his coaches and players. As he
becomes more and more involved with ECU from the alumni perspective,
Emory has taken note of the areas that he, as a former player, would
like to see grow more.
“We have lost so many great Pirate people over the years and many have
not got the recognition they deserve,” he said. “They were all so
important to the program. Guys like Lou Hallow and Bill Clark. They
helped build our weight room. They helped us recruiting. We would sleep
at the homes of Pirate people when we were out recruiting."
Last year, his 1983 club had a 20-year reunion and Emory believes
events like that are a start for what needs to happen at ECU.
“Over there at Carolina and down at Clemson, they are doing great, great
things to bring their lettermen together,” he said. “We have a lot, a
lot of work to do at East Carolina. We need to build a new Pirate Club
facility. We need coaches’ offices. That Sports Medicine building, where
their offices are, that’s not Division I. The meeting rooms there… not
“We got to pull together even more now then ever. Dennis Young is doing
a great job, the kind of job that only an ECU guy can do for you. Those
folks love ECU so much and they are doing a great job. It’s up to all of
us (former athletes) to pull together and make things happen there.”
Emory’s tenure as coach at ECU was marked by a friction-filled, tenuous
relationship with the athletic leadership at ECU. With the Pirates in
the wake of another cantankerous relationship between coach and athletic
director, the importance of leadership choices and their impact on the
program that Coach John Thompson is trying to build at ECU looms
With the new chancellor in place in Dr. Steven Ballard, there remains
the decision about who should be the director of athletics at ECU.
was impressed with the chancellor coming in and starting that
Alert about the legislature,” Emory said. “Life ain’t fair, especially
when you are East Carolina, so we have to make it fair. (Purple Alert)
was impressive. They got some good candidates for athletic director.
He’ll probably make a good decision. I understand that they brought in
some people who love ECU to help make the decision.
“Whoever it is, he’s got to be a great man who is dedicated to keeping
the program going. This whole conference (BCS) thing is going to be
brought up again and again and the man they hire better be in their
fighting and jockeying for position. At ECU, the chancellor has got to
believe in overachieving like Leo Jenkins did, and the Athletic Director
needs to be a man who won’t take a backseat to anybody. He cant let
anything deter ECU from it’s future.”
Emory believes that there should be no limits to which the university
pursues in its quest to find the right person. Though he would not fully
endorse any of the candidates, he did have opinions on a couple.
was impressed with Nick Floyd’s daddy at Clemson and was impressed with
Nick during the Hall of Fame Weekend. I’ve heard good things about
Emory’s philosophy is straightforward when it comes to administering
“When I was a high school principal – I had open heart surgery and it
cut the air off to my brain and that is why I became a principal…” he
joked. “I never locked the supply room door. My teachers needed to have
what they needed to be successful in the classroom. At Richmond County,
I buy my own supplies. I go through 12 legal pads a week writing
checklists for my checklists.
"An athletic director needs to be a
risk-taker. He needs to do for his program whatever he needs to and work
just as hard at that. He can’t always be worried about balancing the
budget. He has to get out there and get those things that will help John
Thompson get what he needs for his program.
“When I was coaching at East Carolina, I never once had an AD ask me
what I needed for my program. You gotta have a guy who is going to find
a way to make his head coaches successful. He has to have high energy,
be very motivated, and be able to improvise when necessary.”
the head coach at powerful Richmond County, Emory is in a prime position
to give an assessment of East Carolina University recruiting.
“Recruiting is the program’s lifeline,” Emory said. “There are three
things in coaching. You’ve got to get the players, keep them, and coach
them. If a coach can do that, he can be successful.”
assessing the recruiting at ECU, Emory notes that the Pirates have a lot
going for them in attracting talented ball players.
“Facilities, stadium, schedule, East Carolina has a lot to offer a kid,”
he said. “But, what you really should be selling a kid on is Greenville.
There is tradition in that town. Greenville is a great town to bring a
kid to as far as a real college town. Rather than a kid going to
Knoxville, where he’ll get swallowed up, Greenville is a football town.
kid ain’t going to play but 24 games on a Saturday in Greenville. There
are only so many Saturdays and half the time, he’s going to be gone.
It’s the other days that really matter… the Mondays through Fridays when
the kid is in Greenville. Gotta sell the school and the town.”
does his part to promote his alma mater.
got that East Carolina jersey hanging on the wall,” he said. “Every
coach that walks into my office sees it and knows that my kids see it
every day. I never tell the players where to go, that wouldn’t be right.
But, when I get one to East Carolina… I’m thrilled.”
None of Emory’s Raiders were picked up by ECU this past season, though
two were being pursued.
“Lonnie Galloway really recruited two of my players hard,” Emory said.
“They both went to Georgia. One more so because the other went, but
coach Galloway did a great job recruiting.”
Though two of his players were courted by ECU, Emory did see a
difference this season with ECU recruiting and he hopes it is not a
“They gotta recruit more in-state players,” he said. “I know Coach
Thompson got in here late last year. It was the same way when I got to
East Carolina. I said I was going to recruit every county in the
state… every one of them. But then, your realize that it is cheaper to
fly to New Jersey to recruit than it is to get out to Asheville. I don’t
know what Coach Thompson’s recruiting philosophy is, but you really got
to get in-state players.
“Years ago, everyone thought you needed to recruit Yankees. Up there in
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio there were more kids. But not enough of
them had allegiance to (East Carolina). We were getting a 4th
kid from New Jersey and passing up a number 3 in North Carolina and
those kids would be more loyal.”
Emory gets straight to the point, noting the large contingent of Florida
players signed in Thompson’s first two classes.
“The state of Florida doesn’t have enough athletes to furnish every team
in the country,” he said. “Somebody ought to chart all of the kids from
Florida who signed with North Carolina State, North Carolina, and East
Carolina over four or five years to see how they really did. I spot-recruited Florida and got some good kids, but are they really faster
than ours? I hear the (in-state) schools telling me my defensive back is
too short (at 5-10) and then they go down there and sign a 5-10
defensive back from Florida.
“Florida is getting watered down. With South Florida and Central Florida
and (Howard) Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic, they are swarming all
of the Florida players. If he is going to go to Florida for his players,
he better be sure he’s not getting 3's and 4's down there. You gotta look
hard in you own state. These are kids that follow your program… that have
Emory believes that Thompson will focus more on North Carolina in the
coming years and has faith in the new Pirate skipper.
“John Thompson is a man that can (turn it around),” Emory said. “He has
the personality and warmth that kids are looking for. How can you not
like him? How can a kid not want to play for this man? This guy will do
well. Remember Mack Brown? He was 1-10 two years a row and then got
players and went to No. 5 in the country.”
Emory also hopes that Thompson understands the relationship between ECU
and its ACC neighbors to the west.
“They know we keep knocking on the door,” Emory said of UNC-CH and State
backers. “People don’t want us to rise above State and Carolina, but
we’ve always been above them because we have more ‘want power’ and that
is the greatest power in the world. We need to keep proving that. ECU is
about persistence to overcome resistance from Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
We need to continue to work harder, longer and smarter.”
On the NCHSAA
has become analogous with Emory, his Richmond Raiders once again found
themselves in the hunt for the state championship. His team found its
way to the NCHSAA state title game vs. Charlotte Independence. Lost 8-10
— missed FG at end of game.
“We had a great team with a good tailback, quarterback, offensive line,
and some great players on defense,” Emory said of his 2003 Raiders.
“(I’ve) won so many games in the fourth quarter in 47 years of
coaching… and we went down the field and had them where we wanted them.
The, we had two passes dropped… two dropped touchdown passes and a missed
And Emory is thinking that, maybe, if his team had been in the east,
like it should have been, his boys might not have even needed a field
goal at the end.
“We shouldn’t have even been there,” he said. “We are in the east. We
won the east and they moved us to the west and that was too far. We
could have been playing New Bern in the 14th game and
Independence in the 16th game. The rules of the North
Carolina High School Athletic Association… I just don’t think they are
fair. I don’t pull any punches on this. There are not enough big 4-A
schools in the west… but (the NCHSAA executives) live in Raleigh and
Chapel Hill and they have their politics.”
if to segue to a deeper point… the state championships and ECU.
“You know, (the NCHSAA) always worries about how far kids have to travel
for a football game and people getting to the game,” Emory said. “If
it’s a state championship game, it doesn’t matter where or how far it
is, the kids are going to get there. It’s the state championship. East
Carolina not getting a state championship game, not being part of the
rotation… if I was (John Thompson), I would be politicking every day to
get that game. And ECU ought to be part of that rotation… no reason why
they shouldn’t… they should have a shot just like they do in Raleigh,
Chapel Hill and Durham.”
But Emory stopped short of an all out lambasting of the NCHSAA.
“Charlie Adams is a friend to East Carolina, absolutely,” he said. “I
just think East Carolina should have a shot.”
Though he has been coaching for 47 years, Emory says that the off-season
never gets easier for a coaching staff. In fact it requires the most
diligence if a fall campaign is to be successful.
“It is the toughest time in the world for a coach,” he explained. “All
the players (have some kind of problem). Ten percent of the players have
academic problems, another 20 percent have women problems, and then
there’s 10 percent not sure they want to play. The rest are working hard
in the weight room. It’s tough keeping these kids out of trouble.”
For his Raiders, Emory may face his toughest task as the Richmond County
coach as he looks to replace 40 seniors. His team will return just three
starters and one is, as he puts it, “high risk” and may not be
“For the 2004 season, we have the weakest team we’ve had since I’ve been
here,” Emory said. “Of course, that is why we coach, right? I’ve got a
couple of good East Carolina boys coaching for me – Paul Hoggard who
played in 1985 and Nick Giddings (2000). We are all looking forward to
the season, but it does feel like it gets tougher and tougher every year
to keep the kids motivated. Very fortunate to be in Rockingham where
football is so important to everyone. We have great participation and
great tradition, which are two things that are hard to have sometimes.
Expectations are always high here and that is wonderful, ‘cause I want to
win them all.
“For me, the situation is better now than in a long time. Probably
because I’m not politicking for anything these days. I’m not looking for
a job, so when coaches come in and John Thompson was in sometime last
week, I used to spend a lot of time building bridges to help get the
next job. Now, though, I come home when I’m done for the day. Of course,
I hope that that is how they put me in the casket… coaching.”
Emory had a bit of a medical scare recently when he had to have some
work done on a corroded artery.
just had some problems that shouldn’t have been major,” he said. “But
like coaches… there are some good doctors, some average doctors, and some
great doctors. I didn’t have a great doctor and they cut my vocal
chord… had to get that all fixed up.”
Recovered, Emory admits that football is still what he loves in this
world the most.
“Football is more a thrill than ever,” he said. “My whole thing is to
give kids an option to do things after high school. I met with some of
my kids last week. They have athletic ability but not academics. They
think that there is some magic wand that is going to fix everything. It
isn’t like that. But I do what I can for them.”
is proud of his players. His former players are like a growing list of
sons, many of whom still call and come by years after Emory coached
have a meeting with Eric Terry because he’s not doing what he is
supposed (up at ECU),” Emory said. “I’m going talk to him. He started to
play last season and now his grades are a problem. Thos grades got his
attention now… yes we are going to have a talk.”
Emory does what he can, though he admitted that sometimes, the kids just
don’t seem to understand.
“They think Ed is just going to take care of all of them,” he said of
his former players. “I got a letter from Atlanta (in recent weeks) and
it was from a boy who went down to get him job in the Job Corps but they
didn’t take him. So, the kid calls me wanting a ticket home. I’ve had
(former players) call asking for help on the rent or for money. It is
not necessarily football the are calling about.”
Still, Emory can't resist being there for his players… it is that loyalty
that he values so dearly.
“You live this long, you get a bunch of kids,” he said. “I’ve never lost
a player… they seem to just stay around. That is a wonderful part of
coaching. If I could win that lottery, I would help them all, all of the
Emory sees some parallels between his Raiders in the Pirates and is
looking forward to the fall to see what the future holds for both
“It’s going to be exciting to see how both the Raiders and Pirates do
this season,” he said. “Both are struggling and have a tough schedule.
They both are looking for improvement. When ECU gets that quarterback
situation in shape, they will (get better). I know Coach Thompson thinks
he’s found himself a quarterback (in James Pinkney) and I know
(Thompson) is excited about Noah Brindise and his offense.”
is looking forward to coaching and keeping up with the Pirates. He is a
content coach these days. Of course, he couldn’t resist being clear on one
front, should it ever occur.
“If they offered me the (head coaching) job at East Carolina,” he said.
“I’d take it in a minute.”
Send an e-mail message to Ron Cherubini.
Click here to dig into Ron
Cherubini's Bonesville archives.