NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Friday, August 1, 2008
By Bethany Bradsher
Plush digs link past, present
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Dwayne Ledford isn’t sure exactly how many
football locker rooms he’s passed through in his long and eventful career,
at East Carolina in the mid-90's, through seven years in the NFL and,
finally, as an assistant coach in NFL Europe.
But Ledford is sure about this: The new ECU
football locker room is the nicest one he’s ever walked into. And when the
2008 Pirate squad walks in today to open preseason practice, he’s sure their
eyes will get a little wider.
When the Pirate Club asked Ledford to donate a
locker to the new space, he willingly invested in the program that helped
launch his football career years ago. And now that he’s back in purple and
gold as a graduate assistant coach, Ledford will have plenty of chances to
enjoy the room that seems to symbolize new and promising frontiers for
“I think the direction that East Carolina has
been going toward, with the facilities upgrade, the coaching staff, they’ve
got a lot of things going right for them,” said Ledford, who signed with the
49ers out of ECU in 1998 and went on to play or practice with the Jaguars,
Panthers, Browns and Saints. “It feels really good to come back and be able
to contribute to East Carolina once again.”
Because of his donation to the locker room
project, a $375,000 venture that was fully funded by private donations,
Ledford will get to see his name imprinted on one of the new wood-grain
lockers. He doesn’t know which player will use the locker this season, he
said, but he requested that it be an offensive lineman like him.
“Being able to jump on board and sponsor one of
the lockers felt good, “he said. “I see how the program is just continuing
upwards. It will be nice to be able to go see my name along with a lot of
former Pirates, the guys that I remember looking up to.”
After a generous lead gift from Raleigh
businessman David Bond, the Pirate Club turned next to former letter winners
The response, according to Matt Maloney, has
been heartening. Former Pirate greats Earnest Byner, Vonta Leach, George
Koonce, Guy Whimper and Jeff Blake have either sent in or pledged donations,
and one former player even gave an anonymous gift in memory of
Foreman, a former standout linebacker at ECU who
died of an apparent heart
attack three years ago at the age of 32.
“The response has been tremendous,” said
Maloney, the assistant athletic director for major gifts. “People are really
excited, and this is going to be some of these guys’ first gifts.”
The features of the new locker room include
details like separate lockable compartments in each player’s locker and
dramatic touches like the Pirates’ head logo in the middle of the rug, a
sacred symbol with a tradition already — no Pirate cleat or tennis shoe is
to walk across it.
The lockers, which like every other aspect of
the room were designed and constructed locally, were made of a unique form
of imported bamboo wood. The doors have Pirate head logos inscribed in the
wood, and the shelves are even lined with a special material designed to
combat mold and other moisture.
“We really tried to step this up first class,”
said assistant AD for operations J. J. McLamb, who oversaw the project for
the athletic department.
The room also includes eight flat-screen
televisions — six with regular TV reception and two designed as a
communication system for the players. Any university employee who needs to
convey information to the team can do so using those sets.
Another memorable touch is the huge wall mural
depicting Dowdy-Ficklen stadium, McLamb said, which is designed to remind
the players, each time they walk in, that game day is the ultimate goal
every time they get outfitted in that room.
And one more significant symbol, requested by
Bond when he made his lead donation, is a special locker — always left empty
— standing out on its own. The sign on the locker reads, “Stay Humble, Stay
It’s the kind of motivation that can become
implanted in a player’s psyche and surface when the players start to weary
and the game is on the line.
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08/01/2008 04:31:46 PM