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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

By Brian Bailey

C.J. sets out on trail blazed by Jones

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


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Bailey: Tough treading

The ink has faded a bit, but I still have the plastic Dallas Cowboys license plate.

The autograph reads, “To Brian, My favorite sportscaster. Robert Jones #55.”

The Cowboys had selected Jones with the 24th pick in the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft. It was the highest an East Carolina player had ever been drafted.

Robert Jones would go on to win three Super Bowl rings with Dallas in the 90’s. He had a ten-year career in the NFL. It all started on that draft day in April of '92.

Fast forward (and with Chris Johnson I mean that literally) to 2008. Again, it’s the 24th pick of the first round. The Tennessee Titans needed speed and picked up the guy who shattered records at the NFL combine.

Johnson met the local Nashville media on Sunday. He told them that he hopes to contribute right away.

“It’s really exciting just looking at last year and all the things that (Minnesota Vikings running back) Adrian Peterson did,” said Johnson. "Going to the Pro Bowl, Rookie of the Year, those type things. It made all rookies these days feel good about coming in here trying to play and just trying to get on the field, just trying to win a Super Bowl.”

Johnson was asked about his blinding speed.

“I’ve never gotten ran down,” he said smiling. “I was the fastest guy at the combine, but I know coming to this level that every year it’s the fastest guy at the combine. So it’s a lot of speed at the next level. I know you going from college running 4.9's and 5.0 flats to the NFL where they are running 4.5's and 4.6's.

"Everybody has speed at this level. You can’t just get the ball and try to take it outside, you have to stick with the play.”

Sticking with the play was Johnson’s problem early in his career. Once C.J. decided to run north and south, hitting the holes and not going for the home run on every run, he became a star.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher told the NFL Network that the Titans had their sights set on Johnson all along.

“We had a sense that Chris would be there,” said Fisher. “We really like what we saw. He’s a very fast player who can catch and run. We’re really excited to get him in here.”

Challengers the Real Stars

For the second straight year, the East Carolina baseball team hosted a Challenger League game at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

It was another big hit.

The Challenger League is a part of Little League Baseball. The players are all special needs children, ranging in age from 6-18.

The league split up into two teams of about 25 players each. Each player had his or her game uniform on, giving it the feel of a true all-star game.

There were A’s, Cubs, Tigers and even Pirates. The Pirates were in black and gold of the major league variety.

(Story continues below picture)

The ECU Pirates served as buddies. Each player had his own buddy, to help field ground balls or to help in running the bases.

Pirate senior Corey Kemp recalled his experience from last year.

“My buddy was in a wheel chair,” said Kemp. “ He wouldn’t hear, he couldn’t really speak or communicate. I helped him hit. He hadn’t really made any noise the entire time, but when we hit the ball, he yelled really loud. His Mom started crying as we ran around the bases. I got choked up. I’m the kind of guy that thinks he’s not going to cry, but it was a real softening moment for me. It made it all worthwhile.”

(Story continues below picture)

Pirate Coach Billy Godwin hopes the tradition will continue.

“This is a great day for everyone involved,” he said. “Our players get as much out of it as the participants do. We’re thrilled to have these players on our field, playing a great game!”

The Challenger League plays its games on Saturday mornings, beginning at 9:30AM at the Sarah Vaughn Field of Dreams at the Elm Street Little League Park. If you’re out one Saturday morning, come by and see some great baseball!


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04/29/2008 03:01:40 AM


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