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Dynamics beyond the sidelines

More Than a Game
Friday, December 19, 2003
By Ron Cherubini
Staff Feature Writer

More Than a Game - Choo Justice Part 3
Telling Tales: A Collection of Stories from Inside the Pirate Program

Anecdotes that can last a lifetime, told by one of the guys who would know them for sure


Part Three of a Four-Part Series
Part 1, 12.12.03; Part 2, 12.14.03; Part 3, 12.19.03; Part 4, 12.21.03.

Former Pirate Coach Ed Emory

When you were part of Ed Emory’s program, it didn’t matter much if you were the starting quarterback or the fifth-string clipboard holder. You were a team member through and through, and as such, you were given the same respect and freedoms that any player within the program received for proudly displaying the Pirate uniform.

As a part of Emory’s “team,” Charles “Choo” Justice had a close up view and a personal relationship with the players and and a front row seat for all of the special moments that made those years so special. It is from this perspective that Justice shares a few of his favorite Pirate tales:

“There are so many,” Justice laughs.

Justice revealed a few little secrets that many fans may not readily know.

“You know, we used to use white spray paint on game pants to make them look white,” he said. “We did it for years without anyone knowing it!"


“One time, we ordered new uniforms that fit differently,” Justice said. “Some of the players – mostly backups – didn’t like the size we gave them. They wanted tighter pants. So, I switched the size labels and gave them to them the next week. They thought they got a new pair of pants and were happy. The truth was, they were wearing the same pants from the week before.”


“In 1981, our budget was so tight I would send old game pants home to my mom who would mend them and send them back to me via friends coming to the game.”


“One time, we used Armor-All on the helmets to make them shiny,” Justice admitted. “It worked great, they really looked sharp. During warm-ups, I noticed there were a lot of fumbles and dropped passes, then I realized the players had gotten the Armor-All on their hands when they put their helmets on. We were running around rubbing dirt on everyone’s hands and spraying tape adhesive on them so they would not fumble in the game!”


“We were playing Miami in the famous ’83 game,” he said. “Fans were throwing oranges on the field most of the game because it looked like Miami was going to be invited to the Orange Bowl, which they were. Late in the game, I got mad and picked up an orange and threw it at two fans that had been leaning over the rail talking junk the whole game. I nailed one of the guys right in the head! They jumped the fence and came onto the sidelines where they confronted another of our managers who promptly pulled a hammer out of the tool kit! Within seconds, security was hauling the fans away and two of our players holding the other back!”


“At home games, the managers would go down and catch PATs and field goals when they would go over the fence,” he recounts. “In ’82, we were playing Richmond at home. They kicked a long field goal that went into the bushes. A drunk guy dove into the bushes trying to take the ball. I found myself fighting with the guy for the ball when one of the other managers jumped in the bushes and bulldogged the guy’s head like a cowboy does when roping a calf!

“Finally, security came along and broke it up so we could get the ball back. As we headed back to the sidelines, ECU was already running a play. I looked up to realize that Tony Baker had a clear sideline and was starting to rip off a 73-yard touchdown run down the sidelines. I took off and actually outran Tony down the sidelines. My buddy tried to keep up but instead took out a couple of cheerleaders while trying to spring down the sidelines! The next day, the coaches called me into the team meeting to show the film of me outrunning Tony down the sidelines. I was awarded a skull and crossbones for my efforts!”


“In 1982 at N.C. State, I was standing up on the equipment case late in the game when a fan reached over the railing and nailed me in the back of the head, knocking me down,” he recalled. “He said I was in his way and he couldn’t see the game. I got right back up on the case. Then his wife starting throwing ice at my head, so I tossed a wad of chewing tobacco at her!”


“In 1982, we went to Texas to play the University of Texas-Arlington. All of the players got cowboy hats and boots on the trip — we were a sight coming back on the return trip.”


“Once Terry Long came up to the equipment room with a sock that the elastic had gotten badly frayed. He said he needed a new sock. Todd Creekmore said, ‘what’s wrong with that one?’ Terry said, ‘The elastic is ragged.’ Todd took the sock, pulled out a pair of scissors and cut the top of the sock off and said, ‘There, it’s not ragged anymore.’ Terry just shook his head, laughed, took the sock and walked off. He couldn’t argue with that logic!”


“We had a freshman manager working the equipment window in 1983. Whenever one of our senior managers, Todd Creekmore, was not in the room, Jeff Pegeus would come up and give the freshman hell. So, Todd devised a plan to fix Pegeus. The next time Pegeus came up giving the freshman a hard time, Todd walked out wearing Peuges’ game jersey. Pegeus just froze and became instantly tame. Todd ruled the equipment room with an iron fist!”


“In ’83, our budget was so tight that the team stayed in the dorm for home games instead of going to a local hotel like college teams normally do. Coach Emory would come over and stay with the team. After curfew, he would come down to my room to watch TV and smoke a cigar with me and my roommate Todd Moore.”


“In 1981, we opened the season against Western Carolina. Earnest (Byner) had just started wearing contacts and that particular night, was having trouble with his. Our trainers were working on him when one of them commented about needing special contact lens solution, but it was in his room back at the dorm. I took his room key, ran out of the stadium during the game, ran over to Scott Hall, got the solution and ran back to the stadium and they fixed Earnest right up!”

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Special Four-part Series on Charles 'Choo' Justice

Friday, Dec. 12 — PART 1:
Choo Justice Profile — It’s a Great View from the Inside
Sunday, Dec. 14 — PART 2:
Training Day: A Week in the Life of a Pirate Equipment Manager
Friday, Dec. 19 — PART 3:
Telling Tales: A Collection of Stories from Inside the Program
Sunday, Dec. 21 — PART 4:
Choo Justice's "All-Tape & Bandages" Team

Quick hits with Choo Justice

Choo's Favorites

Favorite all-time Pirate uniforms:

“I always will have a spot in my heart for the 1982-83 Pirate uniforms. I actually designed the uniforms we wore in 1986-88, so I like those as well. I never liked the gold pants. White on white was always a favorite combo. Purple pants weren’t bad with white jerseys. I never really liked the all purple look. Without a doubt, I think that the Script Pirate helmet will always symbolize ECU football to many of our fans. I hated it when Coach Lewis switched to the NFL look with all the stripes, but have to admit that this helmets looked sharp.”

Best places to play from a trainer’s perspective:

“Southwest Louisiana always took the best care of us and we had a great relationship with their staff.”

Best and worst part of the training gig:

“The games were the best, especially the travel. We got to meet a lot of good people all over the country. The worst part was spring ball and winter conditioning – 6 a.m. conditioning practices in the middle of winter.”

Favorite Pirate team:

“The 1982 and ’83 Pirates. These were guys that I went through college with and lived with in the dorms. Obviously, our success and the battles we faced created a great bond.”

October 29, 1983 Game Program - ECU
vs. East Tennessee State - Homecoming

Worst Pirate year you can remember:

“1984. Everything fell apart after two great years, a lot of stress, the coaching staff was let go at the end of the year. Bad way to go out in my last year of college.”

The Trainers’ Lexicon:

Jolly Roger: “Described the warm-up part of the practice. You would say something like, ‘I’ll take care of it at the Jolly Roger.’”

The Tower: “The tower on the football field where coach would observe practice, we would film and where we could blow the horn and flip periods.

Periods: “The time increments for practice, usually five minutes long. A two hour practice would be 24 periods. Coaches would plan the practice accordingly. One of the managers would sit in the tower and every five minutes flip cards with number and blow the air horn to signal the start of a new period. Players would offer bribes to you to make the periods shorter. Coach Emory would usually lean over and say, ‘Hold this period until I give you the signal!’”

Red/Green Dots: “Helmets came in two sizes that were adjustable by putting in air or taking it out. Red Dots were the smaller size and Green Dots were the larger. If you wanted to joke about someone’s head, you would make up a color and say their head was so big that they needed a Blue Dot!”

Head gear: Helmets

Cages: Facemasks

Sanitaries: Shorts the players wore under their practice gear.

Shells: Practicing without shoulder pads, only wearing the web pads – foam pads that go under the hard shoulderpads.

Skeleton: Passing drills without linemen. Just receivers, backs, defensive backs, and linebackers. Also known as Skels.


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02/23/2007 02:11:08 PM

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