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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

By Bethany Bradsher

Drew masters the art of the tight end

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

If football has a version of using both sides of your brain, it looks a little like this: Going from blocking in the trenches to a finesse reception in the open field.

For a prime example of this gridiron multitasking, see East Carolina senior Davon Drew. By redefining the role of tight end and giving the Pirates new offensive versatility, Drew is helping to power his team and getting plenty of national attention in the process.

“There are not many guys out there that can do both,” said ECU tight ends coach Phil Petty. “They block the same guys that offensive tackles are blocking, 270-80 pound defensive ends, and then to be fast in the open field and run sharp routes and catch a 12-ounce football.

"Those things sound easy but they’re not.”

Rated as the 15th best tight end prospect in the nation by one scouting service and the 24th best by another, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Drew has been turning heads with his strong grasp of the position he only started playing two years ago. The former quarterback out of New Bern High has found the position he was born to play.

“I feel like this is the position I started with, as if I was a little kid,” he said “This is what I’m here to do.”

And because he has been hitting on all cylinders this season — Drew has collected 10 passes this season including his 39-yard touchdown grab against North Carolina State — he is helping ECU field the type of offense that frustrates opposing defenses, said head coach Skip Holtz.

“When they’re on spread, they’re going to go to nickel, when we’re in tight, they’re going to turn and get out of nickel and go to base,” Holtz said. “They don’t know what we’re going to be in with a guy like Davon. He’s running some of the best routes on the team right now.”

Drew, who is on pace to shatter his 2007 total of 19 catches, is running such clean routes and playing so athletically that he is actually one of the Pirates’ top receivers, Holtz said, and the touchdown against the Wolfpack was really a flexed out wide receiver route.

A driven senior who knows his chance to nudge the Pirates to their goal is now, Drew is always searching for new ways to help his team into the end zone.

“I think I’m a little better on the passing game, so that’s why I work on my run blocking a lot,” Drew said. “It’s just working on your weaknesses.”

When Holtz and his staff arrived on the scene, the personnel didn’t permit them to install a true tight end model. They converted Drew, who was listed as a reserve quarterback in 2005 but did not play the entire season, into a tight end with the hopes that he could fill the role with that odd and magical combination of toughness and grace.

To help himself along in this self-improvement project, Drew hit the weight room and gained more than 40 pounds, making him a formidable presence in the backfield and on the line. And even if he is fulfilling a wish that his coaches have long had for their offense, Drew has reached this point entirely under the power of his own will, said Holtz.

“He bought into this move, and he’s really made himself into a great tight end,” Holtz said. “All that credit goes to him for all the hard work and energy and effort he’s put into the last three years.”

Drew would love to meet expectations that put him on the board for the 2009 NFL draft, but his immediate goals have nothing to do with professional football and everything to do with a Conference USA championship.

His coaches, meanwhile, like the example he is setting for young players like freshman tight end Michael Byrd, a 6-4, 245 player from Thomasville.

“He’s a team guy,” Petty said. “He’s a hard worker. I don’t ever have to ask him to do something twice.”

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09/24/2008 01:28:59 AM

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