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Purple pedigree runs deep in newest Holtz aide

From staff and ECU reports


Junior Smith
(Photo: ECU SID)

The latest addition to Skip Holtz's steadily emerging East Carolina football staff isn't likely to suffer lightly any complaints from his charges that his expectations are too demanding. 'Been there, done that,' he can tell them with authority.

Not only has he done it performance-wise, the Pirates' new running backs coach did it better than anyone else in school history on the very turf he'll be teaching ECU's current-day crop of runners to conquer.

Wardell "Junior" Smith, an ECU alum and Fayetteville native, was named to his alma mater's gridiron staff in a Monday announcement by Holtz.

Smith, who ranks as the Pirates' all-time leading rusher with 3,745 yards during his 1991-94 playing career, served last season as running backs coach at Louisiana-Monroe. He also handled the Indians' punt team and was video and professional scout liaison under head coach Charlie Weatherbie.

"We couldn't have brought a better role model and person of high character and class back to East Carolina University," said Holtz in a statement. "From a recruiting standpoint, Junior will certainly bring our staff and program a wealth of ECU and eastern North Carolina knowledge. He was a great student and athlete and obviously knows what it takes to succeed here."

Prior to joining the ULM staff, Smith spent four seasons as running backs coach at Army under head coach and former ECU offensive coordinator Todd Berry. Smith also handled various special teams assignments and was in charge of the Black Knights' recruiting efforts in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

In 1998 and 1999, Smith served under Berry as running backs at Illinois State, where he helped the Redbirds to a combined two-year record of 19-7 and a pair of NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances.

Prior to accepting his first full-time job at ISU, Smith served as a graduate assistant in ECU's Athletic Student Development Office in 1997, where he was responsible for designing academic schedules, monitoring student academic progress and coordinating the Pirates' faculty guest coaching program.

Smith posted three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a player at East Carolina and recorded 16 triple-digit rushing efforts. He was among the top 10 candidate for the 1994 Doak Walker Award. In addition to three honorable mention selections to the Football News All-America team, Smith was a three-time All-South Independent pick.

In the classroom, Smith was the recipient of the 1994 St. Jude Liberty Bowl Scholar-Athlete Award and the 1995 Texas-Gulf Phosphate Outstanding Male Scholar-Athlete Award.

Upon the completion of his collegiate career, Smith played professionally with the Shreveport Pirates and Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League in 1995 and 1996.

Smith earned his bachelor's degree in exercise and sports science from East Carolina in May, 1997.

Smith is the fourth official hire — the third with past ECU ties — to the staff of the recently-appointed Holtz, joining defensive line coach Donnie Thompson, offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler and offensive assistant coach Phil Petty.

Thompson was a one-time defensive coordinator of the Pirates, while Shankweiler lists 10 years of service at ECU on his resume and has a son, Kort, who is a rising junior fullback on the football team.

Several Minnesota media outlets have reported in recent days that Greg Hudson, who resigned last week as Minnesota's defensive coordinator, is in line to be named to take over East Carolina's defense.

Holtz was named on Dec. 3 to succeed John Thompson, who stepped down as coach of the Pirates at the end of the 2004 season.

02/23/07 11:30 AM

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