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No. 34

With Ron Cherubini

Wayne Lineberry

Throwback Pirate
Finally Coming Home

Wayne Lineberry, a Buc with a story to tell, looks to
parlay his financial skills into a future for his Pirates

By Ron Cherubini

Pirates defensive stalwart Lineberry in his senior
year (1968) press shot (Submitted)

Giving back has always been part of Wayne Lineberry’s long-term plans. As a star linebacker for legendary coach Clarence Stasavich, Lineberry only knew of one way to be a Pirate. That way was full on, 100 percent. He did it as a player; he’s been doing it as a fan and Pirate Club supporter. But now, as when he was a player, he is bringing the sum of his skills – on point – to focus on helping his beloved Pirates in a way that will ensure that his alma mater has the tools to keep fighting… climbing… and working its way to the college football promised land.

Lineberry’s plan has always been to find his way back to Greenville… back to where he has always felt at home. Only, he wanted to come back and make an impact on the program. His years as an executive in the insurance business – first with New York Life and currently with Virginia Asset Management – have taught him a great deal about financing futures. And if there is one future in particular he would like to insure and ensure, it would be that of the program.

“I’ve been trying to get back to Greenville for a long time now,” Lineberry said from his home in Troutville, VA. “I have been in the insurance investment business since 1973… most was as a General Manager of New York Life… living all over the country. One of the things about getting back to Greenville, in 1983, I moved from Williamsburg, VA, to Tucson, AZ, with New York Life and I was the GM out there. The University of Arizona had what was called the President’s Club. It was an insurance endowment program which basically worked like, if you bought a $100,000 policy with a $10,000 cash value in 10 years, it would be like the equivalent of, say, a Purple Pirate (level in the Pirates Club). I actually hired some football players out there to work that market. And it is the same now with Virginia Asset Management and Pirates Club members who are getting involved.

“Dennis Young and I were teammates – we came in as freshman together – and I’ve talked to Dennis for years and years (about starting a similar endowment mechanism) and they finally approved it with the Pirates Club Board of Directors. The reason I am doing it and trying to get to Greenville and open up an office — it kind of ties the whole thing in — is that the University of North Carolina started doing that in the 1960s and they have a $118 million endowment and we have a $7 million endowment. Small contributions annually today will leave huge benefits tomorrow. With us not getting in the BCS and having access to BCS or ACC money, you know, if I can put a couple of hundred million dollars in the bank with other agents, it encapsulates what I can do for my school. For the survivability of the athletics… that is where I am coming from on that. Hey, none of us are getting out of here alive and you can’t take too many of your toys with you. We are all kind of remembered by what you give back. Right now, I am just going to set up a sales office. As I go off into the sunset… I’ve been fighting for the university for 40 years and this is my last big fight.”

It should be no surprise that Lineberry is looking to contribute big-time to the program. It is the only way the former standout from Wadesboro knows how to play. He is a throwback player and he doesn’t hesitate to give a little nod the way of his former high school coach in appreciation for helping mold a Pirates star of the 1960s and, even more so, for contributing to the man he became after football... though, Lineberry admits, it was never a dull moment growing in Wadesboro and playing for the cantankerous former Pirates skipper.

“Growing up in Wadesboro… hmmm,” Lineberry pondered. “I’ve always been involved in athletics but the big turning point for me was in 1963. You know, Wadesboro played in probably the toughest 3-A conference in the state with Rockingham, Hamlet, Sanford and those schools. We were just a little old tiny school (playing those teams). In 1963, we were Ed Emory’s first head coaching job and I can unequivocally say that the season of ‘63 and ‘64 – my junior and senior years – were unbelievable. I mean, the hardest I ever got hit in high school football was at half time…and I am dead serious about that.

“Of course, we were like third in the state, we had a real good team and a couple of us went on to play college, but I mean Ed is… he’d kick the door in at half time and pick on the stars. He’d slam me through the locker and just beat the fool out of us. I can tell you, you know, you ever see The Junction Boys? I watch that and I just cringe because that kind of reminds me of the way it was (at Wadesboro High).”

Though it may sound a little rough, for Lineberry and his ilk, that was the only type of football there was and Emory exemplified it in every inch of his being. As a player – one that would garner Prep All-America status under Emory – the fiery coach was just the igniter he needed.

“Well… here’s one story on Ed,” Lineberry shared. “Here is an example… the thing I used to hate to hear him say was, 'Turn the lights on,' or, ‘One more play.’ We’d be scrimmaging but all we did was hit. We were mean as hell, too, but all we did was hit, hit, hit. Thursday night before a Friday game he’d cut the lights on and we’d stay out there for hours and hours scrimmaging. But we had a real good team… a hard-nosed team, and Battle Wall – both Battle and I were all-state from little old Wadesboro – Battle went on and signed with Carolina and did a tremendous job there. But we were playing one of those Rockingham teams and Battle got this guy in what we called a Twirly Bird… well, it was 1964, anyway… and you’d catch the running back and instead of throwing him down, you just start to twirl him around like a top waiting for the other guys to get to him. So, since he is coming around… you came in with helmets those days. You know, you can put out a lot people like that.

“Anyway, Battle got this guy in a Twirly Bird and the guy slipped out of his grasp and ran for like 40 yards and a touchdown. Well, Ed Emory goes berserk.  The big man goes berserk and you gotta understand he’s about 275 pounds of testosterone in those days. So he calls a timeout and I was the middle linebacker because we ran a 6-1 defense like we did at East Carolina. Anyway, you know Ed has a speech impediment and so he says to me, ‘Lineberry… Lineberry… come here.’  So I go over to the sideline and he just jacks me up and knocks the hell out of me right there on the sideline and he’s beating me up and my mother is in the stands yelling, ‘Hit him harder.’ That was a tough crew we had out there. So he threw me back out there on the field and he said, ‘Semiwall…,’ which is s-e-m-i-w-a-l-l, which was actually, “Send me Wall.” Now, I’m not making fun of Ed, I can just mock him real good. I go back out there and I am facing the huddle and I say, ‘Battle, the big man wants to see you.’ And Battle looks out of the huddle and Ed says, ‘Wall, Wall… come here, Wall.’ Battle says, ‘Naw, hell no, I’m not going over there.’ And Battle stayed on the field… I mean, punts, kickoffs, we’d have 12, 13 men on the field, it was chaotic. Battle didn’t leave the field because Ed couldn’t run on the field. After the game, Battle runs straight up to the field house, drops his helmet, grabs his clothes and he’s got his uniform on. He had a Ford Fairlane convertible and he ran over to his car, didn’t open the door, jumps and lands in the seat. He cranks up the car and takes off. Now that is the way we did things under Ed Emory.”

Bigger, Stronger, Faster

There was never denying that Lineberry was an athlete. He was always pretty much bigger and stronger than than the rest of the pack, so football was a natural fit. In a town where kids dreamed of the day they would lace them up for Wadesboro High, Lineberry was one of those kids the coaches took notice of early.

“I was pretty much always bigger than (my peers),” Lineberry said. “I was probably, like, I was listed at about 200 pounds. My junior and senior year, I wrestled and went to the state both years and I went at like 185 my junior year and heavyweight – 197 – my senior year.

Lineberry shows off his wrestling prowess for the Pirates
during a heavyweight match in 1967. (Submitted)

“At Wadesboro, if you were on the football team back in those days, you either ran track or wrestled or you didn’t play football. I’ve always been in athletics. I played Gene Smith Wade Rookies (youth football) when I was six years old and I don’t think we lost three games from the time I was 6 to 13, so, I’ve always been involved in athletics.”

Still, for all his natural abilities – and there were plenty – Lineberry shudders to think what would have happened had Emory not found his way to Wadesboro.

“If Ed hadn’t of come to Wadesboro, I’d probably have wound up working in the mills like my parents did,” he said. “Ed came in and gave me the boost I needed. And it was Ed Emory and the coaches and Leo Jenkins that got me into East Carolina. He (Emory) was like a breath of fresh air coming to a small town. He was something we’d never seen before. Everything he did was first class. You know, he did everything right by his football team. He was a second father to all of us.”

Under Emory’s mentorship, Lineberry parlayed his talents into post-season honors (1st-team all-state and 3rd-team prep All-America) and a host of scholarship offers, but there had a been a tug from East Carolina all along the way.

“I thought I’d get a scholarship somewhere,” he said. “I had scholarships anywhere I wanted to go. Honestly, Battle and I were both highly recruited. When I played in the all-star game in the summer before I reported in 1965, they had me listed (as committed) at an ACC school. I was offered a full scholarship to Clemson by my third game my senior year. But Ed had brought the whole team to East Carolina for football camp and it was more exposure (to East Carolina). So, I loved East Carolina and I loved the school. In those days, it was like N.C. State, Carolina, and Clemson where you wanted to go… and East Carolina.

“I had the high school grades and the courses, but I horsed around my senior year and the entrance requirements were giving me a hard time. Right before the East-West game in Greensboro, I was listed as going to N.C. State, because I signed with them, but I didn’t want to go there. There were no girls up there. My dad talked me into (signing with State) instead of North Carolina because he wanted to keep me out of trouble. The coaches at East Carolina called and said that with the entrance requirements, that they could get me in. But I was told that the admissions folks were kind of questioning (my credentials), and this was in the middle of summer and I was to report in August. I don’t know exactly what happened but Leo Jenkins reportedly got involved and cleared the matter up and said, ‘He’s in.’ I’m in school because of all the coaches, Stas, Leo Jenkins… I’m honored – I’m a Pirate for 40 years – and I’m honored by (Leo’s efforts).”

Finding Football Heaven

For many freshmen coming into a collegiate program, the time is one marked by a little fear, a little self-doubt, a little chaos. For Lineberry, his arrival on campus was not the norm for a youngster getting read to play with the “big boys.”

“My freshman year… well, I thought I was a kid in a candy store (referring to all of the beautiful girls on campus),” Lineberry recalled. “We were all in the dorms together… we’d scrimmage some with the varsity… we knew all those guys. A lot of the guys starting on the freshman team, a year later they were gone. I think we had probably 109 freshmen come in (his first year) and there were maybe eight or nine that were here by my senior year. It was definitely a cattle call.”

And Lineberry, being the big-time athlete, saw East Carolina as another type of candy store. He came in ready to take the town by storm despite being a newbie.

“I looked around at all of the beautiful women and the downtown bars and I said, ‘There ain’t no way I’m flunking out of this place,’” he said. “Of course, I almost did in the first quarter of my freshmen year. It was just a wonderful experience and it was a wild time. We were kind of wild coming out of high school. It was an Animal House situation, especially with the older guys, and some of us fit right in with it (as freshmen).”

Lineberry, however, came in not only with the attitude of an upper classman, he brought game.

“I don’t want to say I was cocky, but I guess I was,” he said.

And Lineberry also recognized the talent around him.

“Jim Flowe was the fullback and he was another one who had like 39 scholarship offers coming out of high school,” he said of Flowe, who to this date is still a close friend. “He was about 238 pounds and ran a 10-flat hundred. We had some good athletes and Flowe was the fullback, so our junior year, you're coming into guys like Don Tyson, George Wheeler, guys like that.”

Bred to play linebacker, Lineberry found himself out of place in Stas’s defensive his junior year.

“Stas put me at left tackle and put Flowe at left defensive end, so we played on that side my junior and senior year,” he said. “I’d drop back to linebacker sometimes. I remember when he moved me. Stas came up to me, being his normal, very sarcastic self, rubbing his pipe against his teeth, and he says to me, ‘Heyyyyy, Liiiinnnneberrrrrry,’ – that was the way he talked – so he says, ‘Liiiinnnneberrrrrry, we can’t haaaave a 240-pound liiiiiinebacker and 200-pound liiiiineman, so you better go in the line.’

Lineberry, right, with former Pirate Kevin
Moran at the bus station following the
1966 game against Richmond (Submitted)

“I was like, ‘Oh Lord!’ They were trying to beef up the line and they had myself and Kevin Moran, Tyson, Wheeler, these guys, so I played my last two years at defensive left tackle primarily and actually I thought that had blown my chances to go to pro ball because of it. But actually I still got drafted  – my name came up because they remembered me from my sophomore year – and that is how I got drafted by the Buffalo Bills (17th round, 417th overall).”

Still, even in hindsight, Lineberry acknowledges that the change did not sit well with him.

“I didn’t particularly like having my position changed but it was their meal books, it’s their program and you do what they say to do,” he said. “You gotta be coachable. If they say, ‘Play tackle,’ you play tackle. Oh yeah, it (diminished the fun). I wanted to be the best linebacker to ever play at Wadesboro High School and when I came here, I wanted to be the best linebacker ever to play at East Carolina. But, I started all of my years and did what they asked me to do to the best of my abilities.”

During his time at East Carolina, he experienced the highs of success and the disappointment of not meeting expectations, struggling through a 4-5-1 season as a sophomore in 1966, leading his team to a fantastic 8-2 campaign in ’67 and then leaving on a disappointing 4-6 senior season.

“To encapsulate that whole era,…” he pondered. “In 1967, we had a tremendous football team. We had a really good offensive line with guys like Kevin Moran and Johnny Schwartz and Butch Colson – who finished fourth or fifth in the nation rushing – at fullback. But the next year, these guys leave, and our offensive line well… let’s just say Butch wasn’t as a productive in ’68. He got beat up pretty bad then. It tickles me because, I was talking about how the coaches today… like JT (former ECU coach John Thompson), and I saw where he was talking about Chris Moore, saying that 75 reps was too many and all that stuff. And I just laughed like hell. In ’66, we played the University of Southern Mississippi for the first time ever in Ficklen and we were in the game and it was like 12-7 into the fourth quarter. My senior year, they just annihilated us down there. Well, we went the whole Southern Miss game and did not pick up a single first down. How many reps did the defense play when we were on the field the whole game? The next game was the University of Richmond in Ficklen and we had gone into halftime and still had not picked up a first down.  We went six straight quarters and the defense was playing the whole game… forget (the talk about too many) reps.

Lineberry (56) chases down a Louisville ball
carrier in 1966 (Submitted)

“We beat Richmond my sophomore and junior years, just like we beat Louisville down here. I told JT, look we were beating Louisville here in the ’60s. We went a whole game and a half without earning a first down. Now that’s earning your meal books and scholarship when you do that.”

Lineberry recalls his time with great pride. Not just because of his contributions but maybe even more so because he knows he played during an era of football that has since disappeared.

“The thing about that era…,” he thought aloud. “Just like the Junction Boys and Wadesboro High School, these were tough times, we didn’t get water breaks like they normally do. I remember we would scrimmage for hours without a water break. I remember there was this one guy who was a backup center – he really wasn’t a college ballplayer – but he just loved it and wanted to be on the team (at ECU). He had one of those old facemasks – a double bar that just kind of hung down. And we get out there and I started to say, George Wheeler was real bad about it… but rest his soul, he is not here to defend himself, but we get out there and somebody said, ‘OK let’s do it.” We’d break his nose so that he’d bleed on the ball and the coaches had to come out and change the ball and they’d give us a water break.

“That was some tough days back then. It drives me crazy… I wouldn’t know how to tackle if I couldn’t use my helmet and come in like a battering ram. The one thing that I told JT when I first met him and this is the God’s honest truth, back in the ’60s, even Ed’s teams, East Carolina was known as a hitting football team – tremendous contact – and I’ve always said a good hit is better than sex and twice as long. Doug Buffone, who was a great linebacker for Louisville in the ’60s and was an outside linebacker in the Dick Butkus days in Chicago, was talking to about 1,000 people at a coaching clinic and somebody asked, ‘Doug, what was the most physical game you ever played in?’ They were probably thinking about Green Bay in the snow or the Detroit Lions and he was up at the podium and he said, ‘Gentlemen, I gotta be honest with you. When I was in college, we played this team called East Carolina. I’ve never been hit so many different ways in my life and hard, too.’ That’s the kind of reputation we had at East Carolina back then.”

And Lineberry has a good example of that from his days.

“In 1967, we played Southern Illinois down here, and it was all clean football but they left like nine (players) at Pitt Memorial Hospital when they flew out,” he said. “And so then you see that and then you see it slack off. Now… I go to most of the games (at ECU) and I know in the ’90s it slacked off. I just go nuts when (the players) are not hitting somebody. But going back to JT, I said, ‘You know, we’ll back you and we want you to win every game but we know that is not possible, I said, as long as your boys are hitting, that’s East Carolina football.’ At least that is the way it used to be.”

Lineberry knows that what he is seeing today on the field doesn’t resemble his days in the Purple & Gold.

“It’s a different game now… it’s just stand up and push,” he said. “I will tell you this, when I was in graduate school we had an alumni game, and then in 1975 when Pat Dye was here, we had a 2nd alumni game and I came down. I was the second oldest guy to come down and play – my last season was ’69-’70 when I played a little pro ball, so I hadn’t played in five years and I got out there. Robert Ellis was the oldest guy there, by the way, and he was running back the kickoffs – so us crazy old guys showed up. But, I was back in my linebacker position and one of the guys – a little wide receiver – did a little down and in. He came across the middle, so I planted my foot and clotheslined him. I mean, just right knocked his helmet off. The ball went up in the air and everything else. Now I won’t tell you what he was calling me, you know. That was 1976 and I clotheslined him and I said, ‘No, you don’t understand, I’m not dirty, I’m a fossilized old throwback ’60’s linebacker, but come back across my middle (and that’s what you get).’ Now that was two different eras back then (compared to today).”

Lineberry’s time at East Carolina was a tumultuous time for a teen-ager. It was the early stages of the Vietnam War and even on the tiny campus in Greenville – sandwiched between Camp LeJeune to the Southeast and Fort Bragg to the Southwest – tensions were in the air. For Lineberry – whose brother had just returned from his first combat tour at the time – there was quite a bit of emotion running just below the surface. And when that angst came out, it almost ended his career.

“I almost got kicked off the team in 1966 because I was over at the Student Union one day with Richard “Rooster” Narrow – who always reminds me of this story when we talk – but that was the first year that my brother, Jerry, was in Vietnam with the 5th Recon in the Marine Corps,” Lineberry said. “I’ve always been a little conservative... well, real conservative. So, I’m walking in the Student Union and the art department had a pro Viet-Cong table set up. Now, 1966 was a little early for that stuff to be happening, so we go in there and stand by the fountain to get a drink. I made a comment to a bunch of ballplayers and I said, ‘If somebody buys a drink, I’ll go and throw it on (the guy at the table).’ So they gave me a huge drink, the biggest you could buy, and I walked up there and said, ‘What are you guys doing here?’ and I just slung the drink over there. Well this guy jumped up and he looked like Grizzly Adams in coveralls. I mean, this guy was bigger than me. When he jumped up, I just grabbed the table and turned it up and slammed him. I didn’t want to let that big guy up so I was just pounding away. And we had a melee there and I don’t know where all the reporters and police came from, so I just slipped away.

“Now, this was right before practice so I go on over to the field and they say, ‘Coach Stas wants to see you.’ I go into Coach Stas’s office and sit down and he says, ‘Heyyy, Liiiiineberrrry, I got a reporter from the Raleigh News & Observer saying that we had an East Carolina football player in an anti-war demonstration. I told him, we didn’t have East Carolina football players in anti-war demonstrations’ – meaning, you’re gone if that is what you were doing. I was like, ‘No coach, no. I was beating them up… I was fighting them.’ So he says, ‘Ohhh… well that’s good Liiiiiineberrrry. You go on and get your equipment and get out there to practice.’

In East Carolina’s first game against Southern Mississippi,
in 1966, Lineberry (left) and Neil Hughes (43) converge
on the ball carrier. (Submitted)

He chuckles about the story now, but Lineberry can’t really retell it without the laughter eventually turning to pain.

“My brother came (from his first tour in 1966-67) and actually made it to East Carolina quite a bit,” Lineberry said. “He went back in 1970 for his second tour there and was killed. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.”

In an ironic note, Jerry Lineberry was attached to the 7th Marines of the 1st Marine Division for his second tour and that very unit is the same that Wayne’s younger son, Jerry Matthew Lineberry, served with in the Marine Corps.

“I named my youngest son after my brother,” Lineberry said. “My brother was Jerry Eugene and my son is Jerry Matthew. It is (ironic) that they both were in the same unit.”

Much like the fight in the Student Union, Lineberry always identified with the toughest of times. Where many a player might hope to draw the weakest link in an opponent to exploit, Lineberry was very much the type of guy who wanted the toughest match up, the biggest challenge. So it is no surprise that he recalls most vividly some of the toughest moments he encountered as a player.

“In 1966, we played Louisville and Southern Miss and they were playing like an SEC schedule then,” he recalled. “We played West Texas State who had Mercury Morris and Duane Thomas – who played little because of Abbie Owens – and there were five or six of those guys who were with us with the Buffalo Bills. These were good football players. But, have you ever heard of Parsons (Iowa) College? Now get this and this is very important because people think you‘re crazy if you retell it, but Parsons College was written about in Sports Illustrated and was called “Flunk Out U” because anyone with money could go there.

“Now they only lasted (as a program) about two years before they went by the wayside. Then the University of Tampa took over as far as the outlaw school, with guys like (John) Metuszak and those guys and then that went by the wayside.”

Lineberry continues:

“Now Parsons dressed in Green and White just like the New York Jets,” he said. “I played against the New York Jets and Parsons College was bigger than the New York Jets. The fullback was Frank Antonini, who was an all-SEC player at Kentucky, and then there was a receiver who was all-SEC at Alabama who had to leave for some reason. They were a semi-pro team. We were the only team that ever beat Parsons at Parsons. We beat them 27-26 on a frozen field and it was absolutely miserable. But it was a Neal Hughes highlight film. He was going on both offense and defense. So Hughes made a long run and scored.

“It was the most beautiful highlight I’ve ever seen… he’s going down the sidelines with a safety. He and that safety are juking each other for about 40 yards and Neal is going back and forth with shoulder moves and the guy is following him and finally the guy trips up and Neal goes into the end zone. We go ahead of Parsons by one point. We kick off and the very first play, the guy runs around the end and is gone for a TD. You can see Neal on the film coming from the top of the screen… you see Neal Hughes come across the field at an angle. The guy is running for like an 80-yard touchdown. Hughes runs him down, grabs him at the back of his jersey and brings him down around the 3-yard line to save the game. It was just unbelievable.”

He gets excited when he talks about his former teammate.

“We had guys like Neal – and I played either with or against three Heisman Trophy winners (in college and in the pros) – and Neal was just as good as any of them, if not better. We had some great players at East Carolina.”

Lineberry also likes to retell the story of the hardest hit he ever witnessed.

“We went to Southern Illinois in 1966 in Carbondale (IL) and they were a huge team, too,” he said. “It was a punt, and Flowe peeled back around and was coming down the sidelines and this big old guard – I think Robert Ellis (WB, 1964-66) was running the ball to the sideline – and this big old guard was reaching out just fixin’ to tackle Billy. So this guy has run 20 or 30 yards and Flowe is running 20 or 30 yards – that’s a lot of mass coming together – and Flowe is coming right at him and this guy never sees Flowe. Just as he’s reaching out to tackle Ellis – right in front of our bench – Flowe went past him and the only thing that hit him was Jim’s forearm to his face, so the guy goes parallel and his helmet came off like someone threw it down the field about 15 yards.

“The guy got up and fell down and kept getting up and falling down but they got his helmet and his ear was in his helmet. Now that is what I’m talking about hitting at East Carolina. That was a good one. We always tried to hit as hard as we could, but I don’t remember ever getting one off like that myself. We were just kind of a mean team then.”

He gets excited thinking back on his years and how he played as a Pirate.

“I will say one thing, there were a couple of times, without being specific, but I could have intercepted a lot more passes as a linebacker, but the best hit in the world is when a back or a wide receiver is doing a down and in and they are stretching out for the ball and you’re coming the other way and you just put your helmet in their chest,” he said. “I mean right in their numbers and you try to take one lung and put it over there with the other lung. That was always fun to do.”

Toughness Equals Opportunity

Coming off a tough 4-6 senior season, Lineberry wasn’t sure of his future. He felt deep inside that being played out of position on the defensive front most likely erased any opportunities he might have on the next level. It was wartime and having a brother who had spent a tour in Vietnam and living in a pro-war atmosphere, Lineberry mulled following in his brother's footsteps as a post-graduation next step.

“I thought about the Marine Corps,” he recalled. “When they asked me what I majored in, I said, ‘Staying eligible.’ But, I also always wanted to get to the NFL. The pro scouts always came around and they talked to a bunch of us and they timed us. I remember there were a bunch of scouts around. I was over 240 pounds and they just had you take your helmet off and run in full equipment and I was running 4.9 forties in full equipment. That wasn’t that bad for those days. They would talk to you but you don’t know you were getting drafted or not, so I was thinking about joining the Marines… I was surprised I was drafted.”

The call came from the Buffalo Bills in the 17th round.

“When I got drafted, I was surprised,” he said. “I was actually talking to the Marine Corps. You gotta understand, in 1969, if you went to Vietnam as a 2nd Lieutenant, your life expectancy was like 15 minutes. But, my name come up and I was drafted (by the Bills). Now that was in the same class as O.J. Simpson and he got all the money anyway. None was left over for the rest of us guys, but I tagged along up there to play.”

Which was true, at least, in Lineberry’s case. The throwback linebacker consulted his throwback coach and got some advice that might have been pure, but not so wise.

“Well, you listen to your coaches and Stas told me, and he meant well, he said, ‘Hey, don’t sign for a bonus, go up there hungry,’” Lineberry recalls. “He wanted me to make the team. So, (Buffalo) sent a little equipment by a guy and I signed the contract. I get up there to Niagara University and they’ve got free agents up there with thousands of dollars in the bank and I am like, ‘Hey what is this?’ ”

Lineberry was quickly introduced to the NFL in camp.

“I was having to play outside linebacker,” he recalled of his first camp. “I remember, I got tied up with this big old tight end and I had first back out of the backfield (responsibility). He had a couple of steps on me – about five yards – it was O.J. Simpson, and I was like, ‘I ain’t catching the Juice, you know.’ ”

Indoctrinated to the talent level, Lineberry settled in to make a run of it. And he did well and had a lot of fun doing it.

“There were a lot of great guys there and good camaraderie,” Lineberry described. “And talk about politically incorrect guys... a lot of teasing and carrying on. I got cut and in those days they had farm teams in the Atlantic Coast Football League and Buffalo had the Hartford Knights. Well, Buffalo sent me down to Hartford and I was the middle linebacker there in 1969. Then, I went back to training camp in 1970 and made the final cut. But then I got cut two weeks later on a business deal thing and I got sent back down to Hartford and finished up with the Knights for two years at linebacker.”

After two seasons in the ACFL, Lineberry felt like he saw the handwriting on the wall for his professional career, so he made a change.

“I went back to graduate school at East Carolina,” he said. “I didn’t know if I could go back to the Bills that year, though I knew I could certainly go to Hartford to play. But, I already had my teaching degree, so in 1971, I just went for my Masters.

“It was hard to leave football behind, but I’ve always been a fan of East Carolina (where he returned for school). I watch very little pro ball now. The first two years I got out of pro ball, I didn’t want to watch it because (as you are developing) you see the Dick Butkuses of the world killing people and every day they are bigger, faster, stronger. You build it up so much in your mind by watching it, but then you get out there (in the pros) and you get knocked down and you say, ‘You know what, it wasn’t fatal.’ It’s like going from the junior varsity to the varsity and it kind of busts your bubble about pro football.”

Back in the Pirate Family

In ’71, Lineberry was a graduate assistant under Sonny Randle. Among the players Lineberry found and recruited was a 5-11 defensive end from Havelock named Cary Godette, who turned out to be an All-America at East Carolina. Lineberry had insisted that, though Godette was not the 6-3, 6-4 type most Division I colleges were looking for, the defensive end would be a great one at East Carolina. Godette, of course, proved him correct and he never forgot it.

A story that Lineberry likes to recall when talking about the type of bonds forged as a Pirate:

“My son played football at Sabino High School in Tucson, AZ – the same program that (current Pirates safety) Zach Baker played for. Philip’s team in 1989 went 12-2 with a unique group of guys. The next year they went 14-0 and won the 4A State Championship. So, while Zach came out of the program talking about Sabino High School being a powerhouse, well, my son helped lay the foundation for that. He was a linebacker and center and played defensive line. He was All-State but was not a Blue Chip recruit. I put together a highlight film of him and sent it to Cary Godette because I wanted Philip to be a Pirate. Now, Philip was not 6-0 and Cary remembered that other player who wasn’t quite 6-0. (Despite that) Philip went to Eastern Arizona Junior College and then went on to play at Northern Arizona. But, Cary never forgot. I saw Cary at the Letterman’s Weekend (2004) and gave him a hug.”

It was these types of relationships that had so bonded Lineberry to East Carolina, that it sometimes made making the right career decision the hardest thing to do for a tried and true Pirate.

“In 1972, I went home to Wadesboro,” he said. “I was the head football and wrestling coach and did that for one year,” he said. “At Wadesboro, we had a lot of rebuilding on the football team, but I took the wrestling team and did real well with that. You can turn a wrestling team around real quick. I enjoyed it. To this day, I go to Wadesboro and I have guys come up to me and I’m their coach and I only coached one year. I mean it really touches your heart when you experience that.”

His coaching career at Wadesboro – and in general for that matter – would be short-lived as another influential Pirate came calling.

“Harold Bullard, one of our East Carolina coaches, had gone with New York Life,” he explained. “A bunch of us (former players) fell in with him. I went to the office in Charlotte in 1973 with New York Life and then in 1975 went through the Management Chairs and I did that for most of my years (in the insurance business).”

So was the beginning of a stellar career in the insurance business. It is fitting that it was one of his coaches who mentored his non-football career. Where Bullard was a corporate sponsor for Lineberry, it was Emory who was the biggest influence.

“Ed Emory was that kind of coach for me,” Lineberry said. “I liked most of my coaches, but Ed had always been a father to me. Actually, I was one of the ones pushing for his Hall of Fame induction for years. He was very deserving. When he was out of coaching before he went to Richmond (Senior) and he was in Wadesboro as the Junior High principal, I would always get around Ed and I’d say, ‘I was Ed’s first all-American and I made him everything he is.” And he’d said, ‘Thanks a lot, that’s why I’m a principal.’ He is still one of my best, dear friends today.”

Finding His Way Home

Lineberry has always followed the program since he left Greenville following his playing days. He has been a loyal Pirate Club member and he has been a fan, making his way to as many games as he could each year. Everything was pulling him back to his beginnings. And the pull has never been stronger than it has been of late, watching his beloved program fall on hard times.

“In 1983, I was dropping thousands of dollars for flights to get to the games,” he said. “And, I cannot imagine not going to the games. When it is football season, you go to see the Pirates play.”

He has oftentimes thought how gratifying it would be to have a few minutes with some of the players on the team to share a little of his own history.

“I think it comes back to – and I was talking to Harold Robinson, and he was like, I could come talk to the team about what it means to be a Pirate and about the chip on the shoulder – and I thought about, ‘Why did I wind up a Pirate?’ When you have to fight for everything you have, you get the Pirates’ attitude. You get the attitude of Leo Jenkins – God Bless him – you get to be associated with him. He has had such a great impact on many of us and we watched how he fought the big boys in Chapel Hill and Raleigh.

“You get out there and it carries on throughout life, what it means to be a Pirate. I have been honored and privileged that since 1965 I was given the chance to be a Pirate. What is the saying, ‘Pirate born and Pirate bred and when I die I’m Pirate dead.' I always feel the same excitement when I come back, even during the down times.”

And what else would he tell the current players?

“I would tell the players about what it means to be a Pirate and what it means to be standing out there on your home field. What those boys learn on the football field will last them for their lifetime. I am still close friends with many of my teammates… they are among my best friends.

“I would tell them that ECU is a bonding (experience) that is unique. Everyone is in the same boat and sometimes that boat may be in rough waters and leaking and you look over at the people on the luxury liner like the wine and cheese crowd in Chapel Hill. We all talk all the time – me, Jim Flowe and Battle Wall – I talk to Battle, and UNC just doesn’t have the same chip on the shoulder. When you make steel, you have to heat it up and pound the hell out of it. (UNC-CH and N.C. State) just haven’t been through what we’ve been through and had to fight for everything they got. I look back, I could have played anywhere and I’ve thought about it over the years, ‘How did I end up at East Carolina?’ But it is one of the greatest things in my life, it is one of my life’s enjoyment.”

Lineberry’s ETA for Greenville is nearing, he hopes, and perhaps he will get his chance to share his stories with the current players. He wants to make money for the future of the program… and he really doesn’t have too many other hobbies these days.

“I enjoy ECU football the most,” he said. “Of course, I still work out and keep in shape. I proved that I don’t play golf at the Lettermen’s golf tournament, because I borrowed Matt Maloney’s clubs and after 18 holes, I said, ‘Matt this is terrible you don’t have any good shots left in these clubs.’ When I was out West, I learned to snow ski out there – you know with the Rocky Mountains and Telluride right there.

“I played team tennis out there for nine years and I played five or six times a week. I was a 4.0 (USTA rating) so we’d play on Saturdays and practice and we were playing all the time. I was frustrated because as a 4.0 player you can hit the ball back a few times but if I couldn’t get to a 4.5 or a 5.0, well, I just walked away from it. In 1992, I came back (to VA) because I am a Southern boy and I had to fly all over the country to see my Pirates, but when I got back in 1992, I dropped my racket and never pick it up again. And this ties to ECU football and my personality. To be a good tennis player, you have to be able to think two, possibly three shots ahead and I could never do that. I tried… I have tried, but all I can think about is that guy across the net with skinny legs is beating me and I just want to jump across the net and beat him to death with my racket. I’m dead serious. I’m saying, ‘Go ahead and take some more lessons to get to a 4.5 or a 5.0 or just give it up.’ I still have those rackets in the closet since 1992.”

Getting back home to Greenville for good might be just what the doctored ordered for his psyche, but it could come at a hefty price to his ticker if things don’t change soon with his beloved Pirates.

“It’s always hard for me at the games,” he laughed. “And I (have) to tell myself (sometimes), ‘Wayne they’re not paying you. You’re not in school anymore, it ain’t my job anymore. That was 30 years ago.’ When they don’t hit anybody out there, it drives me crazy.”

Lineberry is a fighter, in more ways than meets the eye. He likes to tell another story about that fighting spirit.

“I see Jim Gudger a lot when I’m down in Greenville,” he said. “And this story is really his story, but I like to tell it. We played at the University of Tennessee in 1996 and I hadn’t seen Gudger in a long while and Jim said he was walking by a crowd (tailgating) and saw a big commotion and he saw me right in the middle of it. Now this was the first time he’s seen me in years. I’m standing in a group of about 50 or 60 (Tennessee fans) and they were mouthing off at East Carolina people and being rude – kind of like those fans up at West Virginia this year (2004). I was like, ‘Come on all you SOBs, c’mon, let’s go!’ I was challenging the whole group.

“So Gudger walks up and says, ‘Now you guys are in trouble, there’s two of us.’ That was funny… here’s Gudger going back-to-back with me in this crowd of Tennessee fans. Guess they thought we were crazy and the left us alone.”

He is definitely a fighter and his spirit has never been tested as much as it was recently when he faced much more than a crowd of angry Vols fans.

“This past May, I went in for a physical and my PSA was up,” he said. “I never had any problems like that in my family and here I find out I had cancer. So a week later, I’m in the hospital and I’m like, ‘Filet me like a fish and take it out! Do whatever you got to do to kill it.’ They took it out and then the PSA went back up. This was just a couple months ago. I took a shot, went through radiation even though everything got cut out, but evidently some cells were in the pelvic area. But I went to the doctor’s and had a blood test and it’s gone. I had the Grim Reaper by the throat and I’m trying to kick his butt. Of course, it wasn’t me, it was a higher power that did that (defeated the cancer).”

Lineberry didn’t want to go into much more detail… no need. He took it head on and he is, so far, winning that grapple against the Reaper.

If the brush with mortality did anything in Lineberry, it was to accelerate his plans for the future. And he is glad that that future is going to start sooner rather than later.

Lineberry, 3rd from left standing, tailgating in 2004
with friends, from left: Tracy and Lee Durham, Wayne,
fiancee Diane. (Submitted)

“I’ve been a Pirate Club member for 28 or 29 years,” he said. “I’ve been a community chairman and everything else. I’ve been coming back with the same friends and have been since we got out of school.  It amazes me that more – especially athletes – don’t give back. I’ve been since I was up in Richmond when I first went into management with New York Life. Stuart Siegel and I started the Pirates Club back up, up there (in Richmond). Just getting people to come out and have some beer and get Ed Emory or Pat Dye to come up there, you know. So I’ve been involved ever since I left school.

“Of course, Id like it if we were getting the BCS money. Look at what Wake Forest and Duke get for their program. Wake’s come up but I mean they get $7-8 million a year from their BCS cut. It’s kind of like Pirates helping Pirates… we’ve got to put the money in the bank. Nothing has ever come easy for us and that is why we have the chip on our shoulder. We’ve got to put the money in the bank ourselves and if its there, fine, we don’t have to worry about going to I-AA because we put the money in the bank ourselves.”

Lineberry is excited now that his endowment strategy is rolling out with the Pirates Club. With his former teammate and head of the Pirates Club, Dennis Young, working with him, he feels like his mark will be deeper than the blood, sweat, and tears he left on the Ficklen turf as a player. His legacy, he hopes, will be putting in place the foundation for an endowment that is beyond the wildest dreams of those who count themselves among the Pirate faithful.

“It’s like everything else we have faced (and conquered) in the past,” he said. “We don’t know any other way (but to succeed).” 

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Wayne Lineberry Bio Box

Wayne Lineberry/ "Dingle"






Years at ECU:



No. 66/56


Wadesboro, NC

Currently Resides:

Troutville, VA


Insurance Investments, AIG


  • B.S., Health & PE

  • M.S. Education, East Carolina

  • Charter Life Underwriter, American College

  • Charter financial Consultant, American College


  • Philip, 31
  • Matt, 29

“Doug Buffone, who was a great linebacker for Louisville in the ’60s and was an outside linebacker in the Dick Butkus days in Chicago, was talking to about 1,000 people at a coaching clinic and somebody asked, ‘Doug, what was the most physical game you ever played in?’ They were probably thinking about Green Bay in the snow or the Detroit Lions and he was up at the podium and he said, ‘Gentlemen, I gotta be honest with you. When I was in college, we played this team called East Carolina. I’ve never been hit so many different ways in my life and hard, too.’ That’s the kind of reputation we had at East Carolina back then. ”


View the Pirate Time Machine Archives...


Setting the Record Straight on Revisionist History

By Ron Cherubini

As only a good friend can, Wayne Lineberry felt that a clarification was needed. See, in an earlier published Pirate Time Machine, former Pirates standout Jim Gudger (Blocking Back, 1967-70) retold a story about how as a freshman on Dr. Henry VanSant’s famed 1966 frosh team, he and his mates went up and laid the wood to the varsity squad in practice.

Well, one good story deserves another. Lineberry stands by his take that, while the ’66 freshmen were highly talented, the account of the success against the varsity that year was “highly exaggerated.” But rather than retell the stories about playing the freshmen, Lineberry felt it would be better to simply zero in on the teller of the story.

The Gudger Rebuttal

“I’ve got a funny story that is dead on accurate,” he said.

“That 1966 freshmen team was a great team and did some great things, that is a fact. Coach (Henry) VanSant was the type of coach that was real tough, hardnosed and could get you fired up sky high and everything else. So one of the first times, maybe the first time, that they came up to practice with the varsity, those guys were really psyched up. There were two incidents that were really funny.”

The first involved George Wheeler (Tackle, 1967-69).

“George’s first play was over Kevin Moran (Guard, 1964-67),” Lineberry told. “Mainly on the varsity, most of the time we were going half speed or three quarter speed, you know… form blocking. Well Wheeler just knocks the fool out of Moran on the first play. Kevin didn’t say a word, but just came back and lined up and actually jumped offsides and just killed Wheeler. Kevin was beating on him and poor George was trying to crawl off the field and Moran was on top of him kicking him in the head. The coaches finally went over and stopped it.”

Just a short story as a warm up for his main feature… The Gudger Rebuttal.

“So, Gudger comes up and Coach VanSant is psyching him up big time,” Lineberry said. “Well we’re doing 2-on-1 blocking drills and it is myself and Harold Glaettli (Center, 1964-67). So, Harold and I are there and we didn’t even have our chinstraps buckled. You know, it’s one of those deals where you hit and drive. It’s not slow motion or anything but it’s not 100 percent as you can imagine. So, Gudger is the one we’re going to block. We didn’t know that Coach VanSant was telling these guys to go after us and you probably should practice like that but we didn’t always do that on the varsity.

“So Gudger just busts right through both of us and came right through the middle of us and went behind us five or eight yards and did a big break down screaming, ‘Yeahhhh!’ Jim is churning it up and Coach VanSant comes running over there and beats on him and says, ‘That’s the way to do it, that’s the way to show these guys the way to play!’ ”

Lineberry chuckles as he works toward the punchline.

“So old Harold – and Harold used to play with a big ole wad of chewin’ tobacco – so Harold just spit and started buckling up his chin strap and I buckled up mine and he said, ‘Coach, can we do that again.’ You know, I knew what was going to happen. So, me and Harold lined up and Gudger got down there – an he thought he had really done (busted through us) before.

“I’m not going to embellish what happened on that replay, but Jim and he’ll tell you this, you know he had a long distinguished coaching career after he played at East Carolina. He several times has been quoted at one of his coaching clinics in the ’70s and ’80s, that he stood up once to correct the sales people for Riddell Helmets because they used to get up there and say that, ‘These helmets never peal, never crack, never break, and you cannot dent them.’ And Gudger gets up and says, ‘No, I’ve got to correct you on that one.’ Enough said. That’s when it happened… on that replay. Gudger learned a lesson that day. All he saw was two forearms coming at him. That helmet was messed up.”


Lineberry Weighs in on Some Pirates Hot Topics

By Ron Cherubini

Wayne Lineberry has been a Pirate all his life, really. He played for Ed Emory at Wadesboro and later went on to be a big-time star at East Carolina. He was a graduate assistant coach one season for the Pirates and has been a Pirates Club member for 29 years. As a former player who is still connected, Lineberry brings some great perspective to the problems facing the Pirates today. Lineberry took the time to share some of his thoughts on a number of issues.

On the state of the program today:

Note: This interview was conducted before the announcement that head coach John Thompson would resign at the end of the season.

“I can tell you why we are here and this is nothing against Steve Logan… I liked Steve. But, while Steve did a good job and everything else, he didn’t quite have the personality of a head coach. The last couple of years with all the fighting and everything else and we had some good players, so don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here, but John Thompson inherited a tough problem because the bottom line is that our cupboards were bare. I read Boneyard Banter and and I read all the people saying we got to get a new coach. No… no… you gotta give a coach four recruiting classes and judge him the fifth year. It’s pretty obvious… we’re playing seven JUCOs and a lot of freshmen. The problem, I think, he is doing a wonderful job. Do I agree with everything? No. Every decision? No. It killed me that we finally get Chapel Hill to come in here last year and with Stockstill, or Stuckstill I should say, we’re running a damn junior high offense. You know, up the middle, up the middle, pass, punt. It drove me nuts and I’m not saying J.T. is perfect, but the program today, to back J.T., I think he is doing a good job and he is bringing in a lot better recruits. I don’t care if they are from the moon if they put on the purple and gold and hit somebody. I feel good about the program.

“Hey, I went to the WVU game and we’re up there and I saw it last year at Cincy and Houston… their every man and every position they are a head taller and 20, 30, 40 pounds of muscle stronger… that’s the problem. We’ve got to get recruits, build up in strength and instead of playing freshmen you got juniors and seniors because there is a huge difference between a freshman and a junior and senior and that is manhood.”

On the hire of Terry Holland as Athletics Director:

“An unbelievable hire. He came up (in his car) at the last game, pulled up right beside us and got out and started talking. Just like you and me talking and he is such a class act and look at what he’s done as an athlete, as a coach and an Athletics Director. We hit a home run on that one. I just hope he survives after his five years and that he is having so much fun and that we are so successful that he stays on.”

On Alumni Responsibilities:

“I do all I can to support the program and have for 29 years. Well, it is the chicken and the egg theory. When you win, more people jump on the wagon. We’ve got guys that are former football players and I know how they feel – like they should be treated like a king because they played 50 years ago, so you have to bow down – NO! I’ve told players that guys (non-players) have been going to games for 30 years and they have given more than you have. I tell them, ‘You played four years, big deal, you got your education.’ I don’t understand why every former football player isn’t a Pirates Club member and season tickets holder… I really just don’t understand it.

On the ACC Expansion last year:

“I am going to tell you the way I saw everything go down. It comes back to being a Pirate. You come right down I-95 and go east. We’ve always had to fight. A lot of people in Chapel Hill would just as soon cut the state off at the highway and let the eastern part of the state float off out to sea. I grew up in the Piedmont… Wadesboro is near Charlotte. I didn’t know what it meant to be in eastern NC. It’s the same way as the North and South before the war of Southern Independence. You know, the industrialists and the monarchists and the federalists would gladly take all of the taxes and tariffs out of the south without giving anything back. Well, the people over in Raleigh and Chapel Hill would take all of the money out of eastern N.C. and not give anything back… it’s just like it.

“Now, I’ve been in Virginia and I’m watching the governor up here helping Virginia Tech get into the ACC and people asking me, ‘Don’t they do that for you down in North Carolina?’ And, I say, ‘No! It’s still a bitter battle.’ I know its politically incorrect, but I said, ‘Our chancellor went and tried, God forbid he talked to the almighty ACC, and he was promoting us to get into the Big East. He got his knees cut out from under him by Molly Broad. They fire our guy down there for doing what your guy does up here.’

“And they ask, ‘Didn’t your governor help you?’ I’m like, ‘No, he said he is working on the budget and wrecking NASCAR cars. You don’t understand what it means to be a Pirate… we have to fight for everything we get.’ Comes back to that chip on the shoulder.

On Conference we belong in:

“The SEC. We got to win football games to get into the SEC. But, I’ve always said the SEC and people kind of laugh and roll their eyes. But, we're a football school and we play football like that and if a Vanderbilt or somebody like that was to drop out. I mean… they took South Carolina for goodness sakes. If the SEC ever wanted a presence in North Carolina, we’re the only school. The ACC is out because there are too many ACC schools in North Carolina anyway. The schools outside the state don’t want us and the schools in the state won’t have us. That’s a non-issue. We are an SEC-style program.”

On the BCS conference affiliation:

“I mentioned Wake Forest earlier and look at Duke getting rewarded with $8 million for nothing. We’ve got to build the endowment. But look at schools like Louisville and Cincinnati and South Florida. South Florida didn’t have a football team six or seven years ago and now they are in the Big East… it is the same thing: it’s money and politics and who you know.”


“First of all, we’ve got to win in C-USA. I’ve got my coaching hat on now… but we have to win this league and everything else will take care of itself.

On fears that ECU might drop to I-AA football:

When you talk about scary times… when Ed Emory was down here and took over the program, the News & Observer came out making a big deal about how East Carolina should be a I-AA program. You got people sitting west of I-95 and they would rather give it all to Chapel Hill and North Carolina State. They are all peas in the pod and they are like, ‘You all be quiet while we give all the money to Chapel Hill and it’s been that way since before I got here.’ I’ll tell you this, it’s not going to happen. We will never leave Division I… the fan base would riot.”

On his other ECU sport:

“I was a two-sport letterman at East Carolina. I was the heavyweight. My favorite coach was (wrestling coach) John Welborne – he and Ed – I had a pretty good high school wrestling career. Coach Welborne kept trying to get me to come out. My junior year I thought if I wrestled maybe I could get out of running the stadium steps. Of course, the first thing we did when I came out was run stadium steps, so I didn’t get out of anything. I wrestled my junior year. John was the nicest and most sincere man… a lot of coaches are bombastic and phony tough, but not Welborne. He is the same today when I talk to him about my car as he was on the wrestling mat as a coach. I did okay in 1967… I won four or five and lost five or six.”



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02/23/2007 02:15:29 PM

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