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Henry's Highlights
Monday, August 15, 2005

By Henry Hinton

In age of cynicism, redemption lives at ECU


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College football cannot get here quickly enough for this reporter. If I hear one more word about T.O. or Ricky Williams, I think I’m going to be sick.

True, the college game has become more of a business that it should be. Dollars matter more. Welfare of the student athlete matters less. There is evidence of that all over the place, particularly in Conference USA — don't get me started.

But let’s be honest. When you hear a story like the one that will undoubtedly be told ad nauseam about James Pinkney’s real-life struggles to get back on the field this season, it is hard to get excited about the kind of punks that are ruining the professional game.

Fortunately, close to home the Carolina Panthers have had some terrific heart-warming stories over the last few seasons and we’ve been focused on how a little known quarterback named Jake Delhomme, who came out of NFL Europe, led the “Cardiac Cats” to the Super Bowl.

Or how the team rallied around Sam Mills and Mark Fields when they were struck with cancer. The Panthers have, for the most part, been an exception to the monotonous professional athlete stereotypes.

But even the upstart franchise from Charlotte has not been immune. The horrific Ray Carruth episode comes to mind.

The point, however, is that we sports fans have come to expect the blatant “me first” attitude of professional athletes like Terrell Owens and Ricky Williams.

Now, let’s focus on the so-called purity of the college game. It is an environment where teamwork still prevails and is generally needed to put wins on the board.

Here at East Carolina we have seen a healthy dose of all that is good with college athletics and unfortunately we have also helped expose the dark side.

What is being felt today is a renewed excitement that only anticipation can provide. What could be purer than what is unfolding before our very eyes in Greenville?

A program that needs a second chance. A coach who needs and deserves a second chance. And, yes, a quarterback that has earned and is going to get his second chance.

No need to focus on the program’s situation except to say that Terry Holland was right. When he stood before us last November and said that East Carolina was a “house divided” he nailed it.

Would it be possible to be feeling this anticipation and renewed excitement about what will happen two weeks from this Saturday if Holland had not made the “right” move?

And before we get too enamored with the James Pinkney comeback story, let’s not forget Skip Holtz himself.

Here is a guy who might well have been left for dead after a strange turn of events in Columbia the last two years. There is little question he had been brought to Gamecock Land to follow his aging father.

In a strange turn of events that no one seems to want to talk about, Skip’s duties were changed in his last season with USC. Most observers close to the program felt the son was the scapegoat for unexplained problems with the offense.

In this case, let’s just say all’s well that ends well.

Skip was able to convince Coach Holland that he was the right man for the job and since that time has seemed to fit into the East Carolina situation perfectly.

There is no doubt that he wants to put the bittersweet ending in Columbia behind and get onto rebuilding the image he was starting to embody after being the very successful head coach at Connecticut for five seasons.

For Skip Holtz, East Carolina becomes his second chance to let the college football world know he can get it done outside the shadow of Papa Lou.

Now then… the granddaddy of all second chances…. the James Pinkney story.

If you still question the importance of his return, Saturday’s scrimmage should clarify things for you. Holtz, offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler and quarterbacks coach Phil Petty are counting on Pinkney to be the key to Pirate victories this fall.

How can I make that assumption? The following is a very telling quote from Holtz about Pinkney after the scrimmage.

“We put a red shirt on him so that he wouldn't get hit. I think that James
proved how tough he was last year and we wanted him to get a feel for what
was going on."

Translation: East Carolina can ill afford to get Pinkney hurt.

What a long way the Delray Beach, Florida, junior has come in just a few weeks.

Bussing tables at Logan’s Roadhouse must have been a very humbling experience for the young man.

That brings us back to T.O. in Philly and little Ricky in Miami.

They should think about second chances, and when they think things aren’t going their way perhaps they should check in on what is happening here in little ‘ole Greenville, North Carolina.

Second chances are hard to come by. This season they are a way of life at ECU.


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02/23/2007 10:16:33 AM

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