View from the East
Monday, June 27, 2016

By Al Myatt

'B-Will,' 'Mags' back in new roles

Brandon Williams pursues the Virginia Tech quarterback during East Carolina's 28-21 road victory over the Hokies in 2014. (ECU Media Relations photo)


Damon Magazu heads for the action during East Carolina's 42-28 triumph over N.C. State in Raleigh in 2013. (ECU Media Relations photo)



Playmaking CB picks Pirates...

East Carolina gained a commitment on Saturday from Georgia Military College cornerback Marcus Holton. Holton established himself as a factor on the Georgia Military defense last season after first gaining the attention of FBS recruiters at Tallahassee (FL) Godby High School in 2014. Holton is the seventh player to make a pledge to the Pirates this month. ... Recruiting class of 2017 thumbnail sketches...

Recruiting class of 2107 thumbnail sketches...



Junior Day swayed Georgia guard

Connor Mills was always the big kid in the neighborhood who naturally gravitated to football and started playing the game at age five in local recreation leagues. ... More from Sammy Batten...

Recruiting class of 2107 thumbnail sketches...



Recruiting pace quickens for ECU...

June is developing into a big month in East Carolina's drive to assemble its football recruiting class of 2017. ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery and staff have had success targeting talent in the Carolinas and Georgia, landing commitments from a stalwart running back, three stellar wide receivers and a pair of accomplished offensive linemen. ... Recruiting class of 2017 thumbnail sketches...

Recruiting class of 2107 thumbnail sketches...



Godwin returns to routine

Al MyattThe drama of a walk-off win against the defending College World Series champions, the first Super Regional victory in East Carolina history and a job offer from Alabama are in the past for Pirates coach Cliff Godwin. ... More from Al Myatt...



Stellar guard picks Pirates

East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo won out in the reopened recruiting competition for Richmond (VA) John Marshall High School star Jeremy Carter-Sheppard. The three-star guard with solid credentials was the focus of a number of suitors after receiving his release from UCF last month. ... Recruiting class of 2016-17 thumbnail sketches...

Hoops recruiting thumbnails: Class of 2016-17...



Ties that bind lead QB to Greenville

A past connection formed in Durham has led to a future in Greenville for Buford, GA, quarterback Mic Roof. Roof is one of two outstanding football-playing sons of former Duke University head coach and defensive coordinator Ted Roof. ... More from Sammy Batten...

Football recruiting thumbnails: Class of 2017



Omaha closer than it was

Never has an East Carolina baseball team gotten as close to a trip to Omaha. It will go down as the longest 90 feet in Pirate baseball history.  Saturday’s 3-1, 13-inning loss to Texas Tech in game two of the NCAA Lubbock Super Regional was simply a gut-wrenching marathon. ... More from Brian Bailey...


By Al Myatt
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Even if they are just graduate assistants, paying their dues and aspiring to work their way up the coaching ladder, there is a reassurance about seeing Damon Magazu and Brandon Williams listed with the East Carolina football roster.

There was some uncertainty for each in the recruiting process that eventually made them Pirates but they were both stellar defenders during a recent era when ECU was best known for its offensive output.

They have returned to their alma mater to work with the defensive unit as the Pirates seek success under first-year coach Scottie Montgomery following a 5-7 season.

ECU wasn't on Williams' radar during his time at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, SC.

"I was committed to the Naval Academy coming out of high school," Williams recalled last week. "Then I went to Hargrave Military, a prep school. I had to go there to get my SAT score up for the Naval Academy. I couldn't get my score up. I had to find somewhere else to go. Coach (Marc) Yellock (former ECU defensive line coach) came and recruited me while I was ... at Hargrave.

"After that, I told them that I wanted to come here. I took a visit up there in the summer time. This was the place where I decided I wanted to be."

Biggest thrills

Williams had 54 solo tackles and 70 assists as a senior for a 2014 ECU team that won 28-21 at Virginia Tech and 70-41 at home against North Carolina in successive weeks.

"Beating Virginia Tech at Virginia Tech," Williams said. "That's probably one of my best memories. That year we also beat North Carolina. ... Those two have got to be some of my best memories here."

Magazu ensured his legacy as a Pirate in the sixth game of his freshman season, intercepting N.C. State's Russell Wilson in overtime at the East goal line in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for a 33-27 ECU win over the Wolfpack.

That's not his biggest thrill in retrospect of his college career.

"My biggest thrill at East Carolina was probably my entire senior season," said Magazu, who completed his eligibility at ECU in 2013. "Just coming to the realization of all the hard work, our team and our staff put in for the previous three years. It started to pay off. Winning 10 games isn't easy. Going out your senior year winning 10 games and a bowl win (37-20 over Ohio in St. Petersburg) was kind of the cherry on top of all the hard work — everything that we put in from the past couple of years."

'All in' with Ruff

Magazu arrived at ECU shortly after a coaching change and, coincidentally perhaps, returned under similar circumstances.

"I was recruited by Skip Holtz's staff," said Magazu, who played for Charlotte Providence, while his dad, Dave, was offensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers. "It was initially by Phil Petty. Then it was mainly by Coach (Rick) Smith. He and my dad coached together a long time ago when I was little at Kentucky. They were on the same staff there. He and my dad have a great relationship. Once I got to my sophomore or junior year in high school, my dad talked to Coach Smith about my interest in East Carolina. That's when the recruiting process started.

"I was real excited to come play for Coach Holtz and, specifically, Coach Smith. That was the main reason why I picked ECU. Then when Coach Holtz left and Coach Smith followed him down to South Florida, I was just kind of waiting to hear who the new head coach was going to be. When Coach Ruff (Ruffin McNeill) came to my house for a home visit, I was all in and decided to continue coming to ECU."

Magazu's dad has been offensive line coach on John Fox's staffs at Carolina, Denver and now Chicago in the NFL.

Reversing his field

Magazu majored in Business Marketing at ECU.

"I was working in what I like to call the real world for about a year and a half," Magazu said. "I was just more passionate about football, wanted to continue to go in that direction, eventually land a full-time job and kind of take it from there."

Magazu was a national account manager for an IT recruiting firm, Ettain Group, in Charlotte before landing his graduate assistant assignment.

"I made the choice when I had my previous job that I wanted to get into coaching," Magazu said. "I talked to my dad about it. He obviously had a lot of insight and input but ultimately left the decision up to me. It was really calling the previous coaches I'd played for and letting them know that I was interested in trying to get a GA job somewhere, whether it be offense, defense — it really didn't matter. I was just trying to get my foot in the door."

Brief NFL flings

Magazu was released after rookie camp with the Baltimore Ravens. Williams had a similar NFL experience.

"I went to the Jacksonville Jaguars," Williams said. "I went to rookie mini-camp and I was released. After I got released, Coach (John) Wiley (former ECU inside linebackers coach) and Coach (Rick) Smith (Pirates secondary coach) said they could see me getting into coaching. After that, I decided to go into coaching."

Williams had majored in Criminal Justice. His present field is on the field — and in the film room.

"Basically, keeping up with breaking down film," Williams said of his responsibilities in the coaching offices. "Helping the players out and coaching them. If they need help learning it, just explaining it to them. Breaking down film and getting the game plan ready with the coaching staff. I'm working with defensive line this year."

Pirates spring forward

Both ECU alums went through Montgomery's initial spring practice.

"It's a new system and our boys right now they're buying into it, just learning what to do," Williams said. "Last year, we ran a 3-4 but this is a totally different 3-4 and I think just getting more work at it, we're going to be successful this year."

The anticipation for the upcoming season is building. The Pirates open against Western Carolina at home on Sept. 3 at 6 p.m.

"I'm working with Coach Smith," Magazu said. "Mainly focused on the safeties — just breaking down a lot of film, helping Coach Smith game planning for the passing game and just continuing to harp and teach on the installs that we have to our safeties and entire secondary and helping out a little bit with special teams as well."

Leadership translates

Magazu was a team leader and that trait translates effectively into his new post.

"I love working with the players," he said. "Not only just Xs and Os but kind of guiding them through college and life. I know I'm not the oldest guy but I feel like I've been through enough to be able to kind of guide them in the right steps and situations that come about to a lot of college student-athletes. Hopefully, make them better men for the future when they become fathers and what not.

"I'm not a father but I have a great father figure to look up to. Any questions they have about things like that I can kind of relate to how my father handled the situation. ... That's one thing that I love is not only Xs and Os but everything off of the field to help the players."

Cause for optimism

Being involved in spring practice and the teaching sessions the coaches are permitted to have with players in the summer has given Magazu cause for optimism.

"We have a lot of great athletes and we have a great team as well," he said. "There's going to be a bit of a learning curve but I think we kind of got over that hump by the end of spring.

"We have a real physical and athletic team and you can tell from watching past film that we have a fast team as well. Put all of those together, I think we have a promising season coming up, not trying to look too far ahead. We've just got to get to that first game and make sure everything's ready to roll by Sept. 3."

Williams sees potential, too.

"I think it's going to be a good year for the Pirates," said the former inside linebacker. " ... We've got to continue to work hard, grind it out and just wait for Sept. 3 to come for our first game. ... The players are working hard. The coaching staff, they're working hard. We're just trying to put it all together for Sept. 3."

Workouts at lunch time

It isn't all work and no play for the defensive GAs.

"Whenever I have time, like lunch time, a couple of the buddies up here, we either go shoot some hoops or lift some weights," Williams said.

Both Magazu and Williams played high school basketball.

"Every time we play, it seems like he's guarding me, I'm guarding him," Williams said.

Coach Mo's influence

Montgomery's unique charisma has gained him acceptance from Pirate Nation.

"He's enthusiastic," Williams said. "He's just a great guy, great mentor. He's always thinking positive, always giving good advice. It's really just him being himself, being how he is. He's a great dude to be around. He gives you great vibes, just a great person all-around."

Magazu echoed those thoughts.

"A lot like what Brandon was saying," said the former safety who had five interceptions as a senior, of the program's new leader. "He is who he is. He's not going to try to be somebody he's not. He's just a natural leader. He has a lot of great insights for not only football, the offensive side, the defensive side and special teams but he has a lot of insight into life as well. Being able to ask him questions about Xs and Os and even life in general, he has a lot of great insight for that."

Montgomery values the former high-profile players in their GA roles.

“Damon has a tremendous work ethic and attention to detail, not only in recruiting but coaching safeties as well," Montgomery said. "He brings an incredible level of energy to the field on a daily basis. Brandon has a great relationship with our current players and has been an invaluable member of our staff during the transition. He coaches as hard as any young coach in the game today.”

Montgomery made a successful transition from player to coach years ago. Magazu and Williams are starting that journey.

"The main thing, it's just a little bit different being on this side of the ball rather than being a player," Magazu said. "It's a lot more things going into just everyday practice than the players even realize or that I even realized while I was playing. It's a little weird being back on the other side, but I'm starting to get used to it."

Smith a recurring figure

Smith, a grandfather, has been there for Magazu at various stages of his life.

"I've know him for a long time," Magazu said. "Again, when he and my dad coached together at Kentucky, I was maybe four or five years-old. Through the recruiting process and then got to play for him my senior year when he came back to be the defensive coordinator.

"We stayed in touch for the year and a half, two years that I was outside of football. So I've known Coach Smith for awhile. I love him and he's a great guy and a great person to work for. ... It feels good to be back."

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06/27/2016 02:28:48 AM