I simply can’t imagine what life was like last week for East Carolina football coach Mike Houston.
The excitement of preparing to lead your new team onto the field in your home stadium was subdued after Houston lost his father, Bill, earlier in the week.
Houston made the announcement at his Tuesday press conference.
“My dad passed away this morning at my home in Franklin, the home I grew up in,” Houston said with tears rolling down his face. “He was with my mom. I was able to see him last night. One of the last conscious things he did this weekend was watch our team play against State.”
Houston was away from his team and was with his family late in the week for the funeral. He called on the experience of his offensive coordinator, Donnie Kirkpatrick, and his defensive coordinator, Bob Trott, to run things in his absence.
The man who taught the coach how to throw a football and how to shoot a basketball would now have to live on in his heart.
Bill Houston chiseled the man that Mike Houston became.
“He was the one that instilled a work ethic and a tough mindset in me at a young age, and how I did things,” Houston explained. “He taught me how to care about people, he taught me how to see people for who they are on the inside and not judge them for the way they are on the outside. He was a good dad, and he was a good man.”
Houston said Dad would have been proud of the Pirate team that beat Gardner-Webb, 48-9 on Saturday night.
“He would have found something,” Houston smiled and said while reflecting. “More than anything I think he would have been proud of the effort the guys gave in the win.”
Next up for Houston and the Pirates is a matchup with Navy to open American Athletic Conference play.
“I coached at Air Force and we had success defending the option there,” said defensive coordinator Bob Trott. “We have to play aggressively and we have to be disciplined. They want to keep the football all game if they can.”
The Pirates are just 1-5 all-time against Navy, but that one win came in Annapolis in 2011. In those six games Navy has averaged 51 points per game against the Pirate defense.
After that Pirate win over Navy in 2011, I remember then-offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who’s now the head coach at Oklahoma, standing on the field with a big smile on his face.
“That was tough,” Riley said. “That’s a good team and they don’t make many mistakes. Thrilled to get a win here.”
This year’s ECU team would also be ‘thrilled to get a win’ in Annapolis.
The Pirates head to Navy as an early 9-point underdog.