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From the Anchor Desk
Monday, February 4, 2013

By Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey

Cannon will fire with 23

Jay Cannon
(ECU Media Relations photo)

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

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The older I get the more I appreciate history and tradition.

There is nothing I appreciate more at East Carolina than the annual number 23 jersey presentation to honor former coach Keith LeClair.

It was an honor just to know LeClair. I thought about him often this week watching Super Bowl coverage and the stories about former Baltimore Ravens special teams standout O.J. Brigance.

Brigance is in his fifth year battling ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. He currently serves as the senior advisor to player development for the Ravens. His story has inspired the Ravens all season long.

Stories about Brigance this week showed him using an eye gaze machine to communicate, just like the one LeClair used while he battled ALS.

Just like LeClair, Brigance showed his sense of humor with jokes, using only his eyes to look at the machine which would then deliver the humor.

Fittingly, the Pirates awarded the 23 jersey on this Super Bowl weekend.

Senior Jay Cannon will wear the number 23. Cannon played in 45 games, making 40 starts during his first year with the Pirates after transferring from Brunswick Community College. He was a key part of the ECU offense that struggled when he went down to an injury late in the season.

“He is the heart of our club,” said Coach Billy Godwin. “Last year he got hurt near the end of the year. I remember saying that he was so much more than just that .310 batting average hitting in the five hole.”

Cannon was more than excited when he got the news.

“This is the most exciting thing that I have ever been a part of,” said Cannon. “I came from a community college where there were 10 people in the stands every game. To be here where you play in front of four thousand fans and now wearing this jersey and having my name associated with the rest of these guys is something that I never thought was possible.

"I will truly hold this forever near and dear to my heart.”

“All the guys are excited,” said Godwin. “But you could just see him lift up with excitement. He kept clapping like a little kid he was so excited. Then we had the chance to call his father and I thought his father was going to come right through the phone he was so excited.”

Article continues after the following picture.

Jay Cannon is embraced by the denizens of the Clark-LeClair
Stadium "Jungle" after catching a fly on the warning track to seal an
ECU victory over North Carolina State
last season. [W.A. Myatt photo]

Cannon glowed as he talked to the huge crowd at the “Meet the Pirates” luncheon. His excitement shone through as he looked forward to a season as number 23.

I give Coach Godwin a ton of credit for embracing the tradition of the 23 jersey. He and his staff work hard to present the number to just the right person.

“When we first started the conversation back in November and December we thought of several guys,” explained Godwin. “That‘s a testimony for the type of players we have. We probably spent five or six hours looking at different angles.

"Jay basically represents everything that this award is about. It represents a man who had great vision for our program. He was a great person in our community.

"Jay has that same type of work ethic and passion. When the dust settled he was the best candidate.”

Jay Cannon first heard about the tradition when he arrived at East Carolina.

"When I first stepped on campus during my visit in 2011, I knew this was the place I needed to be," he recalled. "To be standing up here and accepting this jersey is just an unbelievable feeling."

Cannon follows in a long line of outstanding individuals to wear the 23 jersey to honor Coach LeClair. New ECU assistant coach Ben Sanderson was the very first honoree. Cannon becomes the eighth senior and 10th player to wear the honorary jersey.

Jamie Paige followed Sanderson in 2004. Brian Cavanaugh, Adam Witter, Chris Powell, Drew Schieber, Brandon Henderson, Austin Homan and Tim Younger followed from there.

Homan, the current head of baseball operations within the program, is the only player to wear the jersey two different seasons.

It’s a wonderful tradition and one I look forward to every year.

Most importantly, it signifies that baseball is just a couple of weeks away at East Carolina.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

02/04/2013 03:12 AM


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