More Than a Game - Choo Justice Part 1
It’s a Great View from the Inside
equipment manager has seen
the Pirate program grow across the decades
One of a Four-Part Series
12.12.03; Part 2,
12.14.03; Part 3,
12.19.03; Part 4,
Pirate Equipment Manager, Charles
Justice. (Submitted Photo)
of the former Pirates who make up the fabric of East Carolina football
lore, tend to role off the tongues of the faithful as if recalling
cherished and revered friends from another time.
and Jones and Koonce and Valentine and Long and Kepley... Summerell and
Robbins and Schulz... Byner and Colson. There’s Garrard and Henry and
Gizmo... and Strayhorn and Alexander and Green...
The list goes on and on and
Not so identifiable are some
greats who were every bit a part of the team and every bit involved in
the evolution of the Pirate program.
They are names like Doc
Gibbs, Todd Moore, Todd Creekmore, Joe Leggett, Warren Brookins, Mike
Meyers, John McTillman, Bill Barrett, Coby Heath, and Choo Justice. Not
your every day names, but certainly very important people in the Pirate
These men were the equipment managers that forged a methodology to keep the
Pirates ready to play, day in and day out. While it may sound mundane,
the work done by these men and their current-day counterparts is and has been critical to the success the Pirates have found in
Student Managers for
the 1983 Pirate Football Season. Kneeling (L to R):
Tracy Gibbs, Todd Creekmoore, Charles "Choo" Justice. Back Row (L
Tood Moore, Jud Crumpler (Manager's Aid), Ward Douglass, Joe
One of those men who has seen
the role of the equipment managers evolve over the years, took the time
to share some insight and much more.
Charles Justice, better know
to his friends as Coach Choo, may have been the first equipment manager
“recruited” to East Carolina. Though recruited may be a little bit of a
stretch as Choo was already determined to go to East Carolina, he was
approached to join the under-funded, fledgling equipment managers under
then-coach Ed Emory.
“In high school, I was a
manager/trainer for the football team and ran track,” Justice said. “I
had decided to go to ECU and was thinking about pursuing Sports
Medicine. One of my former coaches, Bob Sanders, had just been hired to
Ed Emory’s staff. I called (Sanders) to see about getting hooked up with
the Sports Medicine program.
"About the same time, the head student
manager, who was from my hometown, happened to be home for Spring Break.
In those days, there was no full-time manager. It was all students.”
That student manager was
named Jerry Copeland. Copeland, through a family connection, learned
that Justice was headed for ECU and contacted Justice to gage his
interest in becoming a manager. He then called Sanders to let him
know that Justice was joining the crew.
“The next think I know, I am
getting a call from Coach Holland,” Justice recalled. “Holland asks me
if I would be interested in getting a scholarship. Of course, I said
‘Yes!’ The next day he calls me back and tells me that they will pay for
my room and I could stay in the same dorm as the football team and eat
at the training table. That sealed the deal! In those days, that was a
whopping $1,200. Today, that wouldn’t get you a semester of meals!”
That East Carolina was giving
scholarships to equipment managers is a testament to the commitment to
change the program was experiencing in the early 1980s. But, as Justice
quickly learned, the state of the art program was hardly state of the
“When I came to ECU, I
thought that it was a Mecca compared to what we had in high school,”
Justice joked. “The reality was that ECU had far less than most college
programs. Once I started traveling with the team, I realized that our
facilities and budget were not very good compared to most of our
competition. In the early ‘80s, we had little space in the field house,
the locker rooms leaked, and our budget was really small. But, it seemed
It was during the early ‘80s
when the ECU equipment managers forged the reputation that they hold today, and
much of that was due to the mood in the program set by Emory.
“Coach Emory was really a
players’ coach,” Choo said. “He bred a certainly loyalty that is hard to
find. He was tough on us and expected the best from you. But you knew he
would always be there for you when you needed him."
Both the players and the
managers had a hard time adjusting to the style that Emory brought with
him to ECU.
“Our first couple of years
were tough,” Justice said. “During preseason we practiced four times a
day – except for Sundays, when we practiced three times. We hated it,
but we saw what Ed was doing. He was developing a strength program and
he got as many coaches as he could. Even had some volunteer coaches like
Coach (Jack) Boone coming out to give us as much help as possible.
“(Ed) was a relentless
recruiter and got his team involved in selling the recruits on coming to
ECU. His door was always open and we knew we could always go by his
house and we were welcome. His wife Nancy was like our mom.”
The family, open-door
atmosphere was only part of the maturation process of the trainers under
“He instilled a passion for
success and taught us to always give 100%,” Justice said. “He taught us
to be driven. He always said, ‘Respect everyone, fear no one.’”
Emory’s equipment managers were a
wholesale part of the team and the players and managers all felt that
bond. The almost seamless integration of the managers into the team made for a
strong relationship with the players, one in which the managers intuitively
knew the needs of the players they were charged with keeping geared up to play.
While Emory instilled the
passion, the managers also got an infusion of financial help.
“Bob Helmick was the
Associate AD when I was in school,” Justice said. “He took all the
managers under his wing and made sure we were taken care of. He always
made sure we had jobs during the off-season so we had spending money.
Once Bob got involved, our budget improved and we were able to do more
for the team.”
Over the years, Justice has
seen the program evolve from a trainer’s perspective. When he graduated,
he became the first-ever, full-time equipment manager at ECU, a post he
held for three years.
“After me, we have had a long
line of great equipment managers,” Justice said, reflecting on the
equipment management game today at ECU. “Mike Sinqufield, James Frazier, Dan Glinski,
and now Chris Schieder. They each have taken our program to a new level
and our equipment staff is one of the best. I am very proud of where we
have gotten to in the equipment business."
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