Manchester (VA) High coach Tom Hall and East Carolina offensive line coach Allen Mogridge have a past in common, and soon will share a future connection.
Hall and Mogridge were both coached at the college level by Steve Marshall, a highly respected offensive line mentor who spent nearly 40 years working at the Football Bowl Subdivision and NFL levels. Hall toiled under Marshall at Virginia Tech from 1986-88, while Mogridge played for him at North Carolina during the 1998-99 seasons.
“He (Mogridge) and I are very similar,” Hall said, reiterating traits that influenced his current offensive lineman, Kenny Walz, to make a verbal commitment to play for Mogridge at East Carolina in 2024.
Walz, a 6-foot-5, 305-pounder, gave his pledge to the Pirates on June 24 over an offer list that also included Army, Bryant, Buffalo, Lehigh, Maine, Marshall, Morgan State, New Hampshire, Norfolk State, Old Dominion and Richmond.
“Kenny even said Coach Mo (Mogridge) reminds him of me,” Hall said. “We know a lot of the same people and had the same offensive line coach in college. Kenny thought that was pretty cool.”
ECU’s recruitment of Walz picked up significantly, according to Hall, once Mogridge arrived from South Florida to coach the Pirates’ offensive line in January. By then, Walz had already attended “a couple of games” at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and was on campus for a Junior Day event early in the new year. A scholarship offer came in May, which paved the way for an official visit on June 8.
Hall said the official visit sealed the deal for Walz.
“He was locked in after that,” Hall said. “He said it was instant after having out with the players, and just the job the coaches did presenting things other than football. He wants to major in business, and they had everything in line with people from the business department and the stats. I think that meant a lot to him.”
Walz will be the second Manchester player in recent years to play for East Carolina. He follows defensive back DaShaun Amos, who played four seasons for the Pirates from 2013-2016. Amos is now a standout in the Canadian Football League.
Hall first encountered Walz as an eighth grader playing for the Manchester junior varsity team. Walz became a dominant force on the junior varsity as a ninth grader, which earned him a late-season promotion to the varsity where he was exposed to a senior-laden squad. The experience proved to be a turning point in Walz’s development.
“He was a big kid who showed a lot of promise and potential,” Hall said. “We brought him up as a freshman at the end of the year when we were going on a playoff run. As a freshman on JV’s, he’s dominating kids because he’s so much bigger. But when we brought him to the varsity it was an eye-opening experience to go against kids, some of whom were bigger than him, but all who were older and are now playing in college. It showed Ken where he had to get to.
“Every year since then he’s just gotten better and better. He’s a very coachable kid. He listens and applies.”
Walz began picking up his first college scholarship offers after earning a starting job at tackle on the varsity as a sophomore. As a junior in 2022, Walz produced 96 pancake blocks to earn all-region, All-Richmond metro and all-state honors.
Hall said Walz reminds him of former Manchester standout Will Pritchard, who went on to earn a scholarship to Virginia Tech.
“Kenny is very similar to him,” Hall said. “He (Walz) ranks right up there with the better kids I’ve had the pleasure of coaching.”
East Carolina has recruited Walz to play offensive tackle, but he is versatile enough to play anywhere on the offensive line, Hall said.
“He’s played some guard for us,” Hall said. “But I think they (Pirates) are telling him anywhere. He’s long enough to play tackle at Division I and is athletic enough to play inside. They’ve also talked to him about the possibility of playing center. So, in the offseason we’re going to work on him snapping the ball.
“I feel like how I teach things is very similar to what Coach Mo does, so I think he’s going to be college ready more so than a lot of kids. I just think his work ethic and mindset will set him apart from most incoming freshmen.”
Hall doesn’t anticipate that Walz will graduate early and enroll at ECU in January. Instead, he’ll likely spend the spring at Manchester and join the Pirates for the first semester of summer school in 2024.
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