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Former ECU aide lured back by Holtz

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From staff and ECU reports

Donnie Thompson
(Photo: ECU SID)

Donnie Thompson will have to acquaint himself with an array of new landmarks when he rejoins the East Carolina football staff for the first time in 16 years.

The defensive coordinator of the Pirates during the last two years of the Art Baker era, Thompson was named Tuesday as assistant head coach and defensive line coach on the staff of new ECU skipper Skip Holtz.

Thompson returns to East Carolina from Illinois, where he was defensive line coach the last four seasons. He helped lead the Fighting Illini to a 10-2 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2001, his initial season in Champaign. He also served as that program's video coordinator all four years.

Thompson left ECU in 1989 for a 12-year stint as defensive line coach at North Carolina, which during that stretch advanced to seven bowl games under head coaches Mack Brown (1989-1997) and Carl Torbush (1998-2000).

When Thompson departed Greenville, the Pirate football staff and the team's locker room was still crammed into the decades-old Scales Fieldhouse, a modest building which the football Pirates shared with several other ECU sports teams. The limited weight-training facilities were located several blocks away.

The school's athletics complex has undergone a massive upgrade since that time, benefiting from an infusion of tens of millions of dollars for new facilities construction and capital improvements.

Among the changes near Charles Street that will greet Thompson on his return are the Ward Sports Medicine Building, which houses the athletic department staff and the football team's locker room, the upper deck, club level and jumbo video scoreboard at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, and the Murphy Center, generally considered on the nation's finer strength and conditioning centers.

"I'm excited that someone with Donnie's experience, character and integrity will be in a position to make an impact, not only to our program, but to the entire eastern North Carolina region," said Holtz in a statement.

"His reputation as a recruiter and coach speak for itself, as do his values as a leader of young men. The fact that he chose to return to the East Carolina University family serves as a true testament to the outstanding support of the Greenville community and Pirate Nation."

Thompson's hiring reinforces the notion that Holtz intends to build his staff around a core of seasoned veterans with long track records of success. reported Monday that Steve Shankweiler, who worked with Holtz at South Carolina, is expected to be returning to the Pirates staff in his former position as offensive line coach. Shankweiler served as offensive line coach under former ECU head coaches Bill Lewis and Steve Logan during some of the most successful seasons in school history.

Longtime ECU running backs coach Jerry McManus has also been retained by Holtz, at least for the time being, to maintain the recruiting efforts the school had underway under John Thompson, who stepped down as coach of the Pirates at the end of the recent season.

Over the years, Donnie Thompson has been credited with the development or recruitment of a number of marquee players that went on to success with the National Football League, including first round draft choices Julius Peppers (DE), Ryan Simms (DL) and Ebenezer Ekuban (DE).

After leaving ECU in 1989, Thompson was a part of a North Carolina staff that led the Tar Heels to four bowl victories (1993 Peach Bowl, 1995 Carquest Bowl, 1997 Gator Bowl and 1998 Gator Bowl).

During that span, North Carolina also captured national statistical titles in turnover margin (1996) and scoring defense (1997).

Before his move to Chapel Hill, in addition to acting as ECU's defensive coordinator, Thompson served as administrative assistant to Baker, was responsible for the defensive line and worked with linebackers.

In the earlier years of his coaching career, Thompson spent time on the staffs at Western Kentucky (defensive coordinator 1985-86) and Pittsburgh (defensive line 1981-84). While at Pitt, he helped the Panthers to the 1983 Cotton Bowl and the 1984 Fiesta Bowl.

A native of Bogalusa, La., Thompson began his coaching career as a linebackers and ends coach at Connecticut from 1975 to 1981, where he had been a four-year letterman as a defensive standout. He earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from UConn in 1974 and added a master's in psychology in 1975.

02/23/07 11:30 AM

©2004 All rights rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. contributed to this report. An ECU Athletics press release was used as a reference in compiling this report.


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