The draft has happened!!! We drafted only active NFL or future NFL players with North and South Carolina connections (grew up, high school, or college) as if we were NFL GMs. Notice that some older veterans with well-known Carolina connections were not drafted, as we drafted with an outlook for the next 5-7 years (give or take). Listen to the podcast and look below to see a complete list of players drafted! Who won the draft?
Positions required: 2 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 DT, 1 DE, 2 LB, 2 CB, 1 S, 1 wild card (could be ANYBODY), and 1 coach.
Pelion Sand Crabs (Drafted by Filch)
Coached by: The Ole Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier
QB: Deshaun Watson Daniel Jones
RB: Jaylen Samuels Nyheim Heins
WR: Keenan Allen AJ Green
TE: Jared Cook
DT: Jarran Reed
DE: Jadeveon Clowney Robert Quinn (supposed to only take one)
LB: Isaiah Simmons Dorien O'Daniel
CB: Mackensie Alexander Rashad Fenton
S: Tre Boston
Wild Card: Montrez Harrell (Quotable: "This is a guy who, if you took him from his current occupation, and converted him to a football player, out of Tarboro, NC, he could be a force on whatever field you decided [to put him on].... Give me Montrezl Harrell, the closest thing that we've produced to a Manimal in NC in the last 10 years. He would do WORK in the league.")
Zebransky's Squad (Tragically Unnamed)
Coached by: Dave Clausen
QB: Russell Wilson Sam Howell
RB: Tarik Cohen Todd Gurley
WR: Deandre Hopkins Mike Williams
TE: Eric Ebron
DL: Javon Kinlaw
DE: Melvin Ingram
LB: Zach Brown Darius Leonard
CB: Stephon Gilmore Jaire Alexander
S: Matthias Farley
Wild Card: Chris Leak, Former Independence QB, National Champion QB at Florida. (Quotable: As figurehead, as an ambassador, as a consulate, as a diplomat... [He] won 4 state championships and didn't lose a game his entire HS career, won a championship at Florida when Tebow was a freshman... he is Charlotte football and North Carolina football royalty, and I think he brings some X's and O's to the table. He's my figurehead/assistant coach."
Savannah River Monsters (Drafted by Stew)
Coached by: Lincoln Riley
QB: Trevor Lawrence Gardner Minshew
RB: Travis Etienne Darrynton Evans
WR: Justyn Ross Deebo Samuel
TE: Hayden Hurst
DT: Dexter Lawrence
DE: Bradley Chubb
LB: Harold Landry Vic Beasley
CB: Josh Norman Jaycee Horn
S: Kyle Dugger
Wild Card: Dwayne Harris, WR and return specialist, ECU legend, and LV Raider. (Quotable: Dwayne Harris is the toughest player I've ever seen or been around personally, and he was a top returner in the NFL, set records at East Carolina? Give me Dwayne Harris as my do-it-all wild card guy."
The coronavirus era has brought to life fears of a year without entertainment, and the looming proposition of a fall without the very thing that makes it the most wonderful season of the year: College Football. Talks are happening daily regarding what the fall football season may look like, and there are no doubts that the “Big Dawgs” of college football, the larger-than-life Power 5 schools that live in the top-25 each year, will survive whatever storm is brewing over the second half of 2020. Those of us who have pledged to support the “Major” and “Mid-Major” football programs that make up College Football’s middle ground face dire stretches in our programs’ histories. As an East Carolina Alum and football fan, whether due to COVID-19, conference realignment, poor management, or the rise of other programs in the Carolinas, our future is murkier than ever.
I lived in Greenville, NC, from August 2008 to December 2012, and was able to witness several of the greatest highlights in ECU football history. The first game of my ECU tenure featured a blocked FG against Va Tech to seal a victory. The next week, I was on the field for ECU’s 24-3 upset of then-ranked 7 WVU for my first ever live Pirate football game, also the last time ESPN’s College Gameday visited Greenville. As an Athletic Trainer, I worked with the team in Ruffin McNeil’s first season (with Lincoln Riley as an upstart Offensive Coordinator), and was able to experience an ECU football season from the sidelines and inside the locker room. In my time as a Pirate, we defeated “Power 5” members such as Va Tech, WVU, NC State, and UNC, and gave South Carolina, Arkansas, and Kentucky nightmares. Unfortunately, as many programs in the middle ground of college football know, success comes in waves, and we Pirates find ourselves in the unenviable position posting losing seasons without bowl games for 4 years straight. Is this a sign of the future, or just a natural lull in our program’s history?
The College Football landscape has been changing at a rapid pace over the last decade. I’ve been stuck in countless debates over ECU’s football future, mostly against SEC fans who feel we should be demoted to a second division with no shot or even right to play for a CFB National Championship. The conference expansion of the 2010’s led to discussions of “Super Power 5 Conferences” which would expand the perceived top conferences up to 16 teams each, and I have laid out the case for ECU to be included in these conferences more times that I’d like to admit. Albeit, at the time, our level of play on the field backed up my off-field opinions. While it wasn’t an invite to the SEC or ACC, I was thrilled when the Pirates joined the American Athletic Conference in 2014. The AAC is the right place for us to prove ourselves as a solid football program. It places us not among the smaller schools battling in the mid-major conferences, and not floundering in a power 5 after a larger leap than we could handle, but settles us in a “Goldilocks” conference, a true major conference right in the middle. But as I stated before, our future in college football will truly be decided on the field of play.
Ruffin McNeil was an excellent football coach, and not the usual coach that comes through East Carolina. With Terry Holland (the man, the myth, the legend) as AD, Ruffin was brought in as a true Pirate: an alum and truly one of our own, with no plans to build his resume and jump to a power conference coaching opportunity. Jeff Compher replaced Terry as AD in 2013, and quickly decided to move on from Ruffin and company, setting ECU Football on our current course. Compher wanted “his guy”, and with eyes bigger than his stomach, he believed we should be a better program than the one skip holtz/ruffin led to 8 bowl games in 10 years. The Scottie Montgomery experiment was a huge mistake, and led to 3 straight 3-9 seasons in a pivotal stretch for ECU to establish ourselves in the American Athletic. With Jon Gilbert in as AD now, and Mike Houston at the helm, Pirate fans everywhere hope we’ve got our guys to lead the program back to glory and bowl games in the 2020’s, but is it too late?
ECU’s schedule and rivalries have changed significantly over the last 15-20 years. It was once commonplace to have schools like NC State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, WVU, and UNC on the schedule each year, and the Pirates would often play 2-3 games per season against these power 5 schools. However, feuds with NC State (Debbie Yow’s “it just means more to them than us”), Va Tech (Hurricane Florence scandal), and UNC (just plan disinterest, also see ECU’s 71-40 victory in 2014) have led to a changing dynamic in ECU’s future out of conference slate. South Carolina is on the schedule in 2020 and 2021, and NC State is on for ‘22, ‘25’ and ‘28, and we have a few scheduled highlights with Michigan, WVU and Wake Forest over the coming years, but many of those power 5 games have been replaced with names like Charlotte, Appalachian State, and Marshall.
Here is where I will likely go the other way from many Pirate faithful: I’m ok with these changes for the most part. One noted Which Carolina member points to the rise of Charlotte and Appalachian State as primary reasons for ECU’s recent woes: primarily because they compete regionally for recruits, but they also seek similar out of conference games and could infringe on TV opportunities. However, in the changing tides of today’s Carolina football landscape, where the traditional powers such as NC State, UNC, and Va Tech no longer desire to play ECU, I’m perfectly ok with building true regional rivalries that ECU has lacked for a long time.
Historically, our best regional rivalry was NC State, with 31 games scattered throughout the last 50 years, and many of them quite competitive and memorable. We last battled in 2013 and won’t play again until 2022. If you ask an NC State fan about the ECU/NC State rivalry, you’ll likely hear them deny it’s very existence, as they always have their sights on UNC and Duke. Similar story with Va Tech, UNC, and WVU, although WVU fans are always pretty quick to note that they respect and have enjoyed the ECU battles over the years.
The idea of building a true in-state rivalry with Appalachian State? A university that shares a comparable academic profile with similarly avid, blue collar fans? That sounds great! Add in the likes of Charlotte as an up-and-coming Division 1 program, and a regenerated rivalry with Marshall, and I’m all for the future of ECU out of conference games. The AAC is strong enough that we can afford to build some true, passionate regional rivalries rather than constantly seek to prove ourselves against power 5 teams.
The immediate future of ECU athletics has nothing to do with what happens on the football field, and everything to do with ECU’s finances. We don’t generate the mega millions that are paid out to SEC and ACC teams each season with conference rights. We have certainly upgraded in the AAC, but if football is disallowed in 2020 due to coronavirus, it could very well be a disaster to ECU athletics. Facing budget shortages already, the conference champion ECU men’s and women’s swim and dive team was recently disintegrated, as well as the men’s and women’s tennis teams. That brings ECU down to 16 total sports teams, which matches the minimum requirement of the AAC. ECU fans have long talked about ascension into the power 5, but with our current losses, that dream could truly be an impossibility. I’m always an optimist, and hope the season will happen, but with reduced ticket sales, food/beverage, etc, the future and stability of ECU football (and athletics in general) is a huge concern.
I believe in Mike Houston, and we’ve witnessed improvements on the field over the last year that have led many ECU fans to believe that we are on our way back to winning seasons and bowl games. I, for one, am excited at the out of conference schedules we have over the next decade, with the potential for regional rivalries to blossom and power 5 games sprinkled in as an opportunity to prove our worth. More threatening than anything though, is the looming impact of COVID-19 on the future of ECU football. I hope and I pray that the Pirates find a way on the field in 2020, because the future of our program may be in grave danger if we don’t. Thanks, and as always, Go Pirates.
This weekend is the “Summer Kickoff”, but to a summer unlike any other. Historically, Memorial Day is a huge weekend for golf, and fortunately this year is no different.
As the world begins to return to some form of normalcy, we can finally anticipate some exciting competitive golf on tv with “The Match”, an exhibition pitting Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods versus Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. We got a little taste of competition with the “Driving for Relief” competition this past weekend with Rickie/Wolff vs DJ/Rory, but the Tiger/Phil and friends match this weekend is certainly the main course we’ve all been waiting for! With the anticipation mounting, I found myself reminiscing on my own fond Memorial Day golf memories (with a little anticipation for my own match this weekend).
I’ve been swinging golf clubs since probably 2 days after I learned to walk, and it’s been a huge part of my life and arguably my main hobby since my days as a whippersnapper. My father (Doc) took up golf in his mid-20’s, and as he transitioned from a competitive track athlete, he approached golf with the same fiery determination that made him an All-SEC track star at UGA. If you know my father, you’ll know that NOTHING keeps him off the range or golf course. We’ve played in all kinds of weather, and driven all kinds of distances to enjoy our favorite courses.
One of my favorites was when we drove from Birmingham to Montgomery on the day after Christmas, waited out a 3 hour frost delay, and then walked 18 holes at the incredible Judge golf course (RTJ Capitol Hill), in a 36 degree steady mist, before climbing back into the van to thaw out on the hour drive back to Bham. That passion for the game was handed down to me, and I could not be more grateful!
Memorial day has always been special to me, and golf is nearly always the featured entertainment. Growing up, my father, twin brother Mark (aka filch, ⅓ of the Which Carolina Pod), and I would invite a 4th along, and partake in a “Summer Kickoff” Golf Match, with a free Hardee’s meal always on the line to the victors!
The match was always the twins versus Doc and his partner, and we would meet at a Shoney's off of Little Rock Rd in West Charlotte (which sadly, no longer exists), and carpool roughly 45 minutes out to Woodbridge Golf Links in Kings Mountain. Was Woodbridge a great course in great shape? No. Did it have a very scoreable front 9, with a delightful mix of gettable and challenging holes, and an incredibly memorable back 9 that required high stress shots that could determine the fate of a match?? Absolutely. I was deeply saddened to hear that Woodbrige Golf Links closed for several years, but I believe it has now reopened under new management (as Club Woodbridge), and hopefully will remain a delightful challenge into the future.
Many a heart was broken, and many a shank was hit on those fairways, and several matches of epic proportions were re-lived over a #1 thickburger combo and cajun-seasoned fries. Even one year when we were required to go to school (dang snow days!) on Memorial Day, Doc regretfully informed Randolph Middle administrators that his twin boys had dentist appointments, sorry! Later, the Memorial Day Match became a fivesome, which pitted Mark, Lee (aka Zebransky, the other ⅓ of the Which Carolina Pod), and myself against Doc and Butch (Lee’s Dad), this led to some of my fondest memories growing up. I swear Doc is more clutch than freaking Tiger standing over a 10 foot putt to win a match! These matches were played out at courses all over Charlotte, Rock Hill, the RTJ trail in Alabama, and even the deep Gulf Coast, and are maybe the things I miss most about growing up.
But now we look ahead! Despite being quarantined for the last 2 months, we will be (safely and carefully) carrying out our Memorial Day tradition of dueling on the links. On Friday, I’ll be teeing it up with Doc for 18 holes just south of his Macon home; a little warm up round and preview of the weekend’s festivities. After a trip to Atlanta to help my wife’s sister and her boyfriend move, the stars will align on Monday, and Doc, Filch, and I (and probably my wife, making her Memorial Day golf debut) will meet in Auburn at RTJ Grand National, to play 36 and carry on our Memorial Day golf tradition!
We will start on the Links course, a very challenging, target golf course (that has always eaten me alive), and grab some trail dogs, caribbean chicken sandwiches, or reubens at the turn (seriously, even if you don’t play golf, stop at an RTJ trail course in Alabama and eat a meal!), and head back out for another 18 on the more traditional Lakes course. Considering that I play most of my golf alone these days, and have for several years, it is always a treat to play and compete with people I love on courses that I can’t get enough of. No matter who wins the match, it will be a Memorial Day to remember!
As a golfer, Memorial day weekend is one of my favorites, and this year, against all odds and under circumstances that I never would have imagined, it will once again be a truly memorable weekend! I hope you’re all able to spend this weekend with friends, or family, or if nothing else, on the golf course. Comment below to share your Memorial Day traditions/memories!
As always, we’re glad that Carolina is on your mind….
Click the link above for one of our own, Lee Branscome, contributing a player profile for Immanuel Quickley in preparation of the 2020 NBA draft.