CAROLINA & CONFERENCE USA
View from the East
Friday, August 3, 2012
By Al Myatt
Getting past the big pick
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I had a teammate in my
basketball playing days at Wake Forest, Phil Perry, who made the
winning shot in overtime against North Carolina in the ACC
Tournament in 1973 as a sophomore.
Eddie Payne, who coached
basketball at East Carolina for four seasons beginning in 1991-92,
coincidentally had the assist on the play.
It was kind of like Don
Larsen's perfect game in the World Series in 1956 or Lorenzo Charles'
closing dunk in Albuquerque in the NCAA final in 1983.
The hoop against the Tar
Heels sort of evolved into Perry's athletic identity. He was that guy.
He capped the upset of North Carolina.
He aspired for respect as
a player in a more complete sense but that one shining moment came to
define him seemingly for the remainder of his career. He had averaged 25
points a game on the freshman team and felt capable of bigger
contributions on the varsity level but he became known for finishing one
fast break at Greensboro Coliseum.
When I see ECU defender
Damon Magazu, I generally think of
his game-ending interception in overtime
to preserve a 33-27 win against N.C. State his true freshman season in
2010. I figure I'm not alone in that regard.
Magazu busted into the
consciousness of the Pirate Nation with the vibe of a visit from
Publisher's Clearing House. On that one play, he read scrambling
Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson and moved in front of rerouted
receiver Jarvis Williams. Bold as Blackbeard, Magazu turned a tense
situation into an amazing euphoria before the largest crowd in Dowdy-Ficklen
"People remember me from
that one play," Magazu said last month at the Conference USA media day
in Dallas. "Personally, I don't want to be remembered for one play. I
want to be remembered on a career, not only as a football player but as
a student at ECU and as a person."
Magazu seemed as willing
to talk about a summer school 'B' in his business marketing major as the
upcoming football season. He has been a Dean's List and Honor Roll
student at ECU.
Being the bookend on the
win over the Wolfpack was indeed special despite higher expectations of
"It feels good to kind of
be put in ECU's history on one play," he said. " ... It was really nice.
I got a lot of calls from friends and everything like that, which was
Magazu played in all 13
games as a freshman, starting — and finishing — against NCSU at free
safety. He had a team high 14 tackles on special teams in 2010. He made
six tackles against State, three in the fourth quarter.
He stepped up as a full
time starter as a sophomore with 50 solo tackles and 60 assists. He made
four interceptions last season on a much-improved Pirate defense.
The ECU media guide
describes Magazu well — " ... an energetic, assignment sound and
well-schooled defender who continues to enjoy a fast-track rise, now
climbing from a starting role to honors candidacy."
Magazu has displayed a
focus, a maturity and an understanding that belie his youth as a Pirate,
a quality no doubt enhanced by football genes.
"He's a CK," said ECU
coach Ruffin McNeill in explanation of Magazu's exceptional football IQ.
"A coach's kid."
McNeill knows the
advantages of being a CK from personal experience.
Magazu's father, Dave
Magazu, is offensive line coach for the Denver Broncos. His older
brothers, Anthony and Dominick, played at Kent State and Appalachian
Magazu was born in 1991 in
Terre Haute, IN, when his dad was offensive coordinator at Indiana
The older Magazu even did
a stint in Conference USA at Memphis as the Tigers' offensive
coordinator in 1997-98.
The family was
sufficiently settled when Dave Magazu was offensive line coach for the
Carolina Panthers for Magazu to earn all-conference honors for three
straight years at Charlotte Providence. Magazu has added significant
muscle to his 5-foot-11 frame since signing with ECU. He's currently
listed at 203 pounds. His
Bonesville thumbnail when he
committed to the Pirates in 2010 had him at 175.
It said something about
the family's respect for McNeill and staff as coaches when Magazu chose
the Pirates despite interest from ACC and SEC programs. Coaches like
Dave Magazu have a heightened perception when it comes to evaluating
"I've been blessed not
only to have a great father but a great coach as a father," Magazu said.
"I respect him in both manners, as a father and a coach. He would kind
of give me two rundowns after the games in high school. He would give me
the father's point of view and then the coach's point of view.
"He'd kind of mend those
together — the good, the bad and the ugly. He'd praise me and he'd tell
me what I needed to work on. I think that's helped a lot. I feel like a
lot of parents only tell their kids the good things, but as a player you
need to know the bad things so you can work on them."
Seeing his son play at ECU
is not as easy for Dave Magazu as when he was working for Coach John Fox
"He tries to get out on
their bye week and come out and see a game," said the Pirates' No. 11.
"He'll usually fly that week to come see me play. When he's in hotels,
he gets one of his video guys to make sure they can get the games on the
computer so he can see a little bit or as much as he can."
Denver's open date this
season comes after a Monday night game at San Diego on Oct. 15. The
Broncos don't play again until a Sunday matchup at home against New
Orleans on Oct. 28. Dave Magazu may be able to shift his focus away from
protecting Peyton Manning long enough to see ECU play at
Alabama-Birmingham on Oct. 24.
Article continues below
the following photograph
(11) gets a pat on the back from senior Bradley Jacobs (3)
as he leaves the field following his decisive interception
a 38-31 Senior Night win
over Central Florida in 2011. Magazu had a career-high 12
tackles in the Nov. 19 Conference USA contest. (Photo: W.A.
'Running to the ball'
The interception against
N.C. State in 2010 was a high point for Magazu in particular and the
Pirate defense in general. The unit had one of the worst afternoons in
program history in a 76-35 home loss to Navy later that season. ECU's
defense wound up at or near the bottom of several NCAA statistical
categories that year.
McNeill and defensive
coordinator Brian Mitchell retooled for 2011, making schematic
adjustments and bringing in personnel to improve the talent level. The
injury bug didn't bite as severely on defense and the overall numbers
were much better in Magazu's sophomore season.
Most everyone, including "Mags,"
sees the potential for even better defensive play in 2012.
"I think we definitely
have more talent and more depth," he said. "I think the main thing that
we've done is we've run to the ball. That's something that we preach
every day in practice. We do drills specifically to make sure that we
run to the ball. If a hole opens up and nobody is running, then someone
is going to get through the hole. But if everybody is running to the
ball, the hole is going to squeeze up real quick. Turnovers are created
by running to the ball, whether it's on purpose or by accident. Fumbles
will happen. If you're running to the ball, you can fall on it. Same
with interceptions. ...
"I think running to the
ball has been a big component of our success last year."
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