Mike Houston looks like he was chiseled into a likeness of Knute Rockne. Early word is that his pregame speeches are even better than ‘Win one for the Gipper.’
Houston agreed to become East Carolina’s 22nd football coach on Sunday afternoon. By Monday he was in Greenville meeting with the Pirate football team and selected ECU donors.
Earlier Monday ECU had introduced Jon Gilbert as the school’s new Director of Athletics. Gilbert certainly hit the ground running. The ink was barely dry on his contract when he contributed to the hiring of Houston to replace Scottie Montgomery.
Gilbert introduced Houston at the news conference Tuesday morning.
“The most important thing for me was, throughout this process, Coach Houston conveyed to me how bad he wanted to be a Pirate,” said Gilbert while introducing the new coach. “That came across loud and clear. He wanted to be here. He is a great fit for us. His strong North Carolina roots will serve him well.”
Houston gave a no-nonsense opening statement and then went to work to explain his interest in ECU. In the end, all roads led to Greenville.
“We spent some time in South Carolina, in Charleston, which is very close to Amanda and me,” said Houston. “We’ve been in Harrisburg, Virginia, the last couple of years. Both stints were just fantastic stops. We have close friends and strong relationships and those institutions treated us incredibly. But at the end of the day, yesterday, when we landed in Greenville and we got off the plane, it truly felt like we were coming home.
“So, I want to start by saying that Amanda and I could not be more excited about the opportunity to bring (sons) Owen and Reid back to North Carolina and to lay down strong roots and foundation here in the Greenville community and to truly be back home.”
Those strong North Carolina roots began in the high school ranks which evolved into a slot at Lenoir-Rhyne College. From there it was on to The Citadel and then James Madison. Now he’s back in North Carolina, looking to make a big statement in the Tar Heel state.
“We have strong ties with the high school football coaches throughout the state and we are going to recruit the state of North Carolina very aggressively,” said Houston. “We are not going to back down from anyone in the recruiting battle. We are also going to recruit the surrounding area, the Tidewater, Richmond and Norfolk areas in Virginia. We’re going to recruit the state of South Carolina. We’re going to recruit Atlanta. But our home base is going to be in-state football players.”
Many of those in-state players from our area will be the first that Houston will contact.
Those Scottie Montgomery recruits committed to ECU in large part because of the efforts of quarterback Holton Ahlers.
“I’ve talked to all of the recruits and they are still committed to ECU, “said Ahlers. “I really liked what Coach Houston told the team and I think everyone bought in right away.”
They had better buy in, because it sounds like Mike Houston doesn’t play. Maybe that’s what it takes to go 37-6 and win an FCS National Championship.
“With that comes great responsibility and great accountability,” said Houston. “That’s something that we’re going to build our program on. The way we train, the way we practice is going to be reflective of how we play. I’m not naïve enough to think that we’re going to be able to turn around tomorrow and be what my vision is for this program. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.
“We spoke about that last night. We spoke about the commitment it’s going to take in the weight room. They’re going to have a certain plan laid out for them over the Christmas break. When they come back in January, they will never have worked as hard as they’re going to work this spring, this winter in that weight room, on that field to prepare the team to represent East Carolina University the way it deserves to be represented.”
Pirate Nation has been through four straight losing seasons. Houston was hired to turn things around.
Mike Houston is a proven winner. He’ll face his challenges at ECU, but he’s conquered every challenge to date.
All of a sudden the buzz is back in Greenville for Pirate football.