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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Monday, February 13, 2006

By Henry Hinton

Motivation aplenty born of special new alliance

Football coach looks to new pal to inspire team and community


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Getting a Gatorade bath has become a ritual for college coaches after a win. Most of them don't seem to like it in spite of the fact that it signifies their team's victory.

Toward the end of the 2005 football season, Skip Holtz became accustomed to a special version of the bath when the East Carolina Pirates won. Drew Steele would pour Gatorade out of a can onto the head coach. Not only did Holtz not mind the bath, it became a great show of friendship between the head coach and his buddy.

Say the name "Drew" around Greenville and people know immediately who you are talking about. Twenty-one-year old Drew Steele — the youngest son of Sandy and Mike Steele, East Carolina's former basketball coach — is an icon around ECU sports.

Drew is special... in so many ways.

Ask him and he'll tell you. He might tell you about his success as state bachi ball champion in the North Carolina Special Olympics. He might brag about being the weatherman each morning during his Rose High School days on the campus in-house system. He might even tell you about how proud he is of his family, which seems to be the most important thing to Drew.

This past season, however, it was his relationship with his new pal, Skip Holtz, that Drew bragged about the most.

"I remember one year ago when I first met Coach Steele and Drew," recalls Holtz. The new head coach had been recruited to play in a Special Olympics fund-raising golf tournament at Bradford Creek Golf Club in Greenville.

The day with his new friend Drew seemed to offer a badly needed dose of perspective.

"I went out there with a bad attitude," he said. " I had just taken over this program and I had a million things to do. I went out there and it was cold and windy and I ended up playing golf with Drew and Mike. Seeing how positive Drew was I realized that I needed to change my attitude."

In fact, the new head coach was enthralled enough with Drew he decided his whole football team needed some of what the young man had to offer.

"I was so impressed with Drew's attitude... what a positive young man he is," Holtz said. " I told him that I wanted him to come speak to our football team. Changing attitude was what this year was all about for our football team. We have so many reasons to be negative in this world today and when you look at a young man like Drew Steele it is very motivational."

As the coach recalls it, Drew's acceptance of the coach's invitation wasn't a slam dunk.

"When I asked Drew if he would come speak to our football team, he said he would have to check his work schedule at Chic Filet (laughs), but he did come and he was terrific," said Holtz, adding that "Drew Steele has been great for this program."

Holtz was so impressed with the attitude change Drew seemed to offer the entire team that he gave him a job. During the season, Drew worked in the equipment room handling laundry and putting out uniforms. He was there on the sideline for every ECU game as a reminder to the players that positive attitude was the key to their turning the program around.

Now, Holtz wants to pay Drew back for the inspiration. This year's golf event will rival any Greenville has seen since the days of the Michael Jordon Classic. Holtz has personally gotten involved in an effort to raise a record amount of cash for Drew and his friends in Pitt County's special populations.

Thus, on June 4th and 5th, the first annual Drew Steele-Skip Holtz Golf Classic will be christened in Greenville. Already DSM Pharmaceuticals, the largest private employer in Pitt County, has stepped up as the platinum sponsor of the event. Radio and television commercials will soon air on Talk 1070 and Cox Communications with details of what promises to be a huge fund-raiser in which every penny raised will stay in Pitt County.

The event will be a two-day affair complete with a star-studded dinner on Sunday evening and golf the following morning. Sponsorships and golf foursomes will be limited. More information will be forthcoming on how Pirate fans can get involved.

"Drew has meant so much to me personally and to our football team," said Holtz. "This is going to be a wonderful event honoring a wonderful young man and we're going to raise a lot of money for Drew and his friends.

"He made such an impact on so many of our players that we asked him to come work for us. ... He did a great job for us and I'm excited to be involved with the young man."

It's going to be a great thing. The power of Drew Steele... as many lives as he has touched. Everybody knows Drew and knows how positive he is. With the impact he has had on so many people for 21 years, this has the chance to be a special event. Its only going to get bigger every year.

It will indeed by something special for Greenville and the community's special populations.

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04/21/2008 07:04:04 PM

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