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View from the 'ville
Thursday, August 9, 2007

By Al Myatt

Troth on new mission second time around

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Former East Carolina quarterback Paul Troth finished his college playing career at Liberty after transferring in 2003. He returned to the Pirates prior to the 2006 season to serve as an offensive graduate assistant on Coach Skip Holtz's staff while pursuing an advanced degree in sports management.

[ ECU SID photo ]

Then newly-enrolled freshman Paul Troth
relaxes after a practice session during 2001
spring drills.

[ Photo ©2001 ]

The first Bonesville The Magazine in 2002 featured a fresh-faced kid named Paul Troth on the cover who was poised to move into the starting quarterback role at East Carolina under the tutelage of coach Steve Logan.

As a sophomore that season, Troth passed for 2,315 yards, the ninth highest total in ECU history, but his career, the Pirate football program and the university itself were drifting toward a twilight zone.

Five years and six summer magazine editions later, a more mature Troth is preparing for another season in the Pirate program in his second year as offensive graduate assistant. He has put the bitter memory of a 1-11 season in 2003 under coach John Thompson into perspective.

His playing career digressed to a remote niche as Desmond Robinson's seldom-used back-up in 2003 and he transferred to Division I-AA Liberty where he played his senior season in 2004.

The Pirates had the kind of success in 2006 — a winning season and a bowl trip — that Troth envisioned when he first joined the program as a prized signee out of Vance High in Charlotte, the son of an ECU couple. His dad, Mike, lettered in the Pirate football program in the 'seventies.

"Coming in (as a grad assistant) I knew I'd be almost a little jealous of the situation," Troth said. "The guys here have a great situation and a great coaching staff around them now. The whole university is behind them.

"Not to say that it wasn't when I was here but there was so much turmoil — not just within the athletic department but up through the chancellor's office. You didn't know who was coming and who was going.

"You felt kind of like this was looked at as a stepping stone whereas now people want to be here. They're putting facilities in and they're doing things with the Pirate Club. It's a family atmosphere."

From those awkward emotions at his return, Troth has grasped his place as a GA who aspires to climb the coaching ladder.

"I was jealous but now I realize that stuff like that had to happen when I was in here and we had to go through some rough times to enjoy the times that we have now," Troth said. "Football-wise, it's been humbling.

"When I was here, I had ups and downs. I enjoyed playing. Everybody knew who you were — good and bad — but at the same time now it's more of a humbling experience. It's a grind every day. Mostly, the toughest part was just learning how to be a coach because it's completely different from being a player.

"You're not in the limelight anymore. It's your job. When I was still playing ball, it was fun but now I'm looking at it as a profession I can hopefully get into. I've made mistakes and I've got to keep on learning from Coach (Todd) Fitch and Coach (Steve) Shankweiler."

Pirates coach Skip Holtz traveled the graduate assistant road on the staff of Bobby Bowden at Florida State in the developmental stages of his coaching career.

"I had the opportunity to recruit Paul from the Charlotte area when he was in high school," said Holtz, who was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at South Carolina at the time. "I had the opportunity to get to know him and his family. I was very impressed with the type of young man that he was.

"I know things didn't work out here at East Carolina the way that he would have written the script but he still loved East Carolina. When I first came to East Carolina he was one of the first people that kind of met me out in the parking lot. He came up and re-introduced himself and we got a chance to visit. He talked about what his plans were and what he was trying to do.

"When this graduate assistant position opened, he had written a letter stating that he had an interest in getting into coaching. I had the opportunity to sit down with Coach Shankweiler and talk a little but about Paul. Coach Shankweiler thought he would be a real good addition to what we were trying to build.

"I thought it was a home run. Here was a young man that things didn't go here the way he would have liked for them to but at the same time he was real eager and excited to have the opportunity to get back to his alma mater and be a graduate assistant here."

Troth is on the ground floor of college coaching.

"The way it was described to me when I was a GA is that you get to do everything that everybody else doesn't want to do," Holtz said. "You get to break down the film of the upcoming opponent. You get to do all the computer work. You get to go get people's coffee. You get to run and grab their lunch. It's an internship is what it boils down to."

It's on the job training.

"Right now he's doing a really nice job of breaking down film and he's learning a lot of football," Holtz said. "He's getting an opportunity to run the scout teams — the look teams of our upcoming opponents. He's doing an outstanding job and I think he's going to make an outstanding coach one day."

Holtz met his wife while working as a GA with the Seminoles. Troth is married to the former Teresa Dodd of Centreville, VA, whom he met at a Christian function while both were attending ECU. She didn't know he was quarterback of the football team — which uniquely impressed him. She works as an art teacher at Wellcome Middle School in Greenville.

"Coach Holtz has been great support for where we are in our lives right now," Troth said. "We're humbled really, but we're enjoying it," Troth said. "We're enjoying the struggle. We enjoy working hard for anything that we have. It's great experience, I think, just to learn."

Troth isn't bitter about his diminished role in the coaching transition from Logan to Thompson.

"Everybody knows I came here for certain reasons," he said. "Coach Logan being one of them."

Troth felt he was just beginning to learn the college game when Logan was dismissed after a 4-8 record in 2002. Troth's learning curve took a detour with a new staff, a new system and reduced playing time.

"What warranted me not playing and ultimately my departure was my performance during the season," Troth said. "I totally rest that on my shoulders. It was a learning experience. I hate that I had to go through it. At the same time, I understand that I didn't get the starting job to begin with (in 2003) but I didn't do enough to win it back.

" ... When I got those opportunities on game day, I didn't perform. Looking back at it now from a coaching perspective, I wouldn't have played me either because I just wasn't fitting into the system. Desmond fit that system a little bit better. He played well. What frustrates me most is that we had a lot of talent on that team."

Troth often played in 2003 trying to do too much in order to impress the coaches.

"Instead of taking the check down, I was trying to make the big play," he said.

Liberty provided a second chance in football along with a spiritual emphasis that helped Troth get his priorities in order.

While he's afforded an insight and experience in college coaching, Troth also is working on an advanced degree in sports management. He may move on to a Division II or I-AA staff position or opt to take his next step into the high school ranks.

Because of his age and experience. Troth can operate effectively as a liaison between the players and higher levels of the Pirates coaching staff. He hopes to be there for Rob Kass and ECU's other young quarterbacks to lean on this season.

"It was funny," Troth said. "Dave Garrard came up here. We went and worked out and we threw some. He asked me about (Kass). He said, 'What's this kid like?' I said, 'In a nutshell, the best way I can describe him is that personality-wise he's just like me.'

"He's his worst critic. He works as hard as he can. He doesn't want to be treated anyway differently in terms of his teammates than anybody else."

Those are the similarities but Troth noted that there are also differences between the sophomore quarterbacks of 2002 and 2007.

"He's a lot more talented," Troth said. "He's a lot bigger. He's faster. He's smarter and he's got a stronger arm. The key is the same situation as me. I hope the fans understand that this kid is going to have his ups and downs.

"With this schedule that we face, he's going to make mistakes but it's our job as coaches — most importantly the main guys — that they give him the tools and they have. It's his responsibility to understand it's not all on his shoulders.

"I made the mistake of thinking that."

Even with limited experience as a freshman in 2006, Troth said Kass comes in better prepared to take control of the ECU offense.

"Rob has shown the fans here that he can lead this football team," Troth said. "In the bowl game, he stepped in and did a great job. The on field experience he's had, he's been able to learn. I didn't have that. I didn't redshirt. I was just kind of thrust in there.

"He's going to be facing the best defense in the land (Virginia Tech, Sept. 1) but I feel confident in Rob that he's going to put in the time and the effort to understand what he's going to face."

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08/12/2007 12:53:26 AM


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