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View from the East
Thursday, May 9, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

The theft heard 'round the league


Pivotal pick     <<< Top of Page >>>

Dwight Henry made a play and possibly redirected the future of Conference USA football.

Henry, a former East Carolina player, is a defensive specialist for the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. He has 11.5 tackles, one interception and one pass break-up for the Storm, which hopes to get off the slide of an 0-3 start as it hosts the Chicago Rush on Friday night.

The AFL is a variation of the game played on a field 50 yards in length, not counting the end zones. Itís essentially eight-man football with six players going both ways. Each unit has two specialists.

Itís fun football with lots of offense and final scores often on the order of those in basketball ó or ECUís 2001 trip to the GMAC Bowl. Chicago, for instance, is coming off a 71-59 victory over Grand Rapids.

Henryís team played in Raleigh on Saturday night, losing in a relatively low scoring affair by a 46-36 margin to the Carolina Cobras at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.

The AFLís most-celebrated alumnus is quarterback Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams. The ownership of the Cobras includes Roddy Jones, a 1958 East Carolina graduate, and his children Rob, Christi and Russ.

The elder Jones has been a big roller in construction and real estate. His construction interests were vital in the addition of the upper deck at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Henry is the only ECU player in the AFL, according to C-USA officials. Cincinnati has the most players in the league with eight.

Henry, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. is no relation to Miami Dolphins draftee Leonard Henry, who completed his eligibility in 2001 by rushing for 1,432 yards for ECU in his senior season.

Dwight Henry was a speedy free safety for the Pirates, running a 4.36-second 40-yard dash. He also used his ability in track, in which he was a member of the Colonial Athletic Associationís 4x400 meter relay champions in 1994.

Henry played from 1993-95 for the Pirates in football and sat out in 1996 as he recovered from a knee injury. He had a shining moment in a 45-31 win at Louisville in 1997, a game in which ECU trailed 31-14 at the half. His 98-yard interception return for a touchdown was a huge swing in the game.

The Cardinals were in position to score in Louisvilleís final game at Redbirds Stadium. But Henry blunted the drive with his pick of a Chris Redman pass and drastically pivoted the gameís momentum as he raced down the sideline in front of the Piratesí bench.

ECU used the spark to score 31 unanswered points.

That return may have changed the face of Conference USA football. It was the turning point as the Cardinals lost a game they were poised to win in their exit to Papa Johnís Stadium, which was under construction at the time.

Some Louisville fans were livid over the Cardinalsí collapse in the aftermath of the game, verbally blasting coach Ron Cooper on his way to the locker room following the loss.

The Cards finished 1-10 that season and 0-6 in C-USA. The frustration of that defeat and the disclosure that topless girls had appeared at a golf function that Cooper had organized for boosters resulted in his dismissal following the 1997 season.

The Cards hired John L. Smith from Utah State to initiate their rebuilding effort and Louisville has become the premier program in the league under his direction. Louisville has had four straight winning seasons and won the last two C-USA championships under his guidance.

With quarterback Dave Ragone returning to lead next seasonís team, the Cardinals will likely be the team to beat again in 2002.

The power structure of the C-USA in football today might have been a different story if a Redman pass on Nov. 1, 1997 hadnít wound up in Henryís clutches. Cooper might have bought some time with a win over ECU. The program might not have hired Smith, who signed a long-term contract with the Cardinals last season.

Things might have been different.

Pirate baseball     <<< Top of Page >>>

John Manuel of Baseball America said that East Carolina has put in a bid to host a baseball regional in the NCAA Tournament.

Wilsonís Fleming Stadium proved an exceptional site last season. But even if the Pirates arenít rewarded with a bid, itís possible that ECU would be placed at a regional in the state.

Manuel noted that Wake Forest and North Carolina have also submitted bids. The Deacons would use Ernie Shore Stadium adjacent to Groves Stadium, Wakeís football facility, because Hooks Stadium on campus doesnít have lights.

The success the Pirates experienced as a host last season could possibly earn them a host role even if ECU isnít a No. 1 seed for the fourth straight year. The NCAA would like the aspect the Pirates present in terms of generating gate receipts.

Thereís still some work to be done for ECU in terms of enhancing its post-season status in its remaining regular season games. There are key two league series ó at Southern Miss this weekend and at home against Louisville the following weekend, plus a midweek game at UNC-Wilmington on May 15, that are big opportunities for the Pirates to pump up that very important ratings power index.

LeClair notes... Sources say that ECU baseball coach Keith LeClair has been released from Pitt Memorial Hospital where he was admitted in mid-April for symptomís relating to Lou Gehrigís disease. A tracheotomy was performed on LeClair, which allows him to use a portable ventilator.

Rumor mill     <<< Top of Page >>>

Letís preface the following by saying that it is unconfirmed rumor at this point and that efforts to confirm or dispel it have not been successful.

That said, word has it that former ECU defensive coordinator Paul Jette has returned to Greenville after one season on the Baylor coaching staff. Supposedly, he is working for prominent Pirates booster Walter Williams.

The speculation has it that Jette will return to the ECU coaching staff and work with the secondary, a move that will be accommodated by some shifting of assignments among those presently on staff.

Again, thatís all strictly rumor at this point. It may be utter nonsense or it may be the genesis of an attempt to remedy the poorest pass defense in C-USA last season.

Even fancier digs     <<< Top of Page >>>

ECU offensive tackle Brian Rimpf, a first team All-Conference USA selection in 2001 who is on the 2002 Lombardi Award watch list, had an opportunity to visit the Piratesí new strength and conditioning facility recently.

ďItís awesome in there,Ē Rimpf said. ďIt will be nice to work out in there and see out on the field. That will let you see what youíre working for ó to play your best out there for the hometown crowd.Ē

Rimpf visited North Carolinaís weight room when he was in high school and was impressed, but...

ďOurs is going to be a lot bigger now,Ē he said. ďAnd I think itís nicer.Ē

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02/23/2007 12:58:59 AM

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