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No. 27

With Ron Cherubini

Editor's note: We published Ron Cherubini's original Pirate Time Machine feature about iconic former East Carolina player and coach Ed Emory in the 2002 edition of Bonesville Magazine. That hard-copy publication also included a pair of related stories: "A Pirate Foresaken — The End of a Dream;" and "The '83 Team — A Picture of the Future of Pirate Football." The comprehensive update below was compiled by Cherubini based on recent interviews with Emory. Links are also provided to all three of the original feature stories that appeared in Bonesville Magazine. Since those stories were published in 2002, Emory has been enshrined in the ECU Hall of Fame.

Ed Emory: Now & Then

Catchin’ Up With a
Pirate Hall of Famer

Coaching Legend Ed Emory
Weighs in on the ECU Program,
the AD search and N.C. Prep Football

By Ron Cherubini

Ed Emory was once told by a former athletic director that he talked too much. But as the former Pirate player and coach put it: “Those people from Raleigh (News & Observer), Charlotte (Observer), and Sports Illustrated never came all the way to Greenville to hear nothing.”

Today, Pirate fans simply like to hear Emory talk, whether it is about his days at East Carolina or about how his Richmond County Raiders are going to be hard-pressed to return to the state championship this coming football season.

Now that spring ball is over for his Raiders and passing leagues are not yet going, he had a few moments to share some thoughts on a range of subjects.

With the state of East Carolina athletics, and the university in general, at such a pivotal moment, Emory weighed in on some of the more pressing issues facing all who love their Pirates. And, he weighed in on other things less critical.

Hall of Fame Enshrinement

Emory in 2003
(Photo: Richmond Raiders)

On October 24, 2003, Ed Emory was honored with his long-awaited induction into the East Carolina University Athletics Hall of Fame. It was a day that the former Pirate standout player and head coach had long hoped for but believed might never come.

In the end, the alumni and fan base would be heard – loudly – and Emory was summoned to the podium to stand beside Dr. Henry VanSant, Jeff Blake, and Vinson Smith to accept enshrinement into the tangible chronicle of ECU sports history.

“I wish I could have thanked all of (the people who wrote in),” Emory said. “You know, I got letters and phone calls from so many people… people who I didn’t think even knew me. From little towns all over. I coached over 20 years ago and it is hard for me to believe that people still remember.

“That made this old coach feel good. I just wish my mother could have been there to see it since she was at every game I played. All the people (in relation to ECU) have been so wonderful to me, making me feel so loved in the twilight of my career.”

For a man who thought a lifetime of politics over his contributions to his alma mater — Emory really had resigned himself to never being counted among the Pirates greatest athletic contributors — it was the kind of gesture on behalf of the university to which he has steadfastly pledged allegiance that stirred deep emotion.

“No doubt that I have, in the past, let my mouth overload my butt, and when I took on Ken Karr, I really let my anger control me,” he recalled. “I tell my players, ‘He who angers you, controls you,’ and I believe that back then, I let my anger get the best of me. I didn’t think I ever would get in (to the Hall) because of politics. I never did anything that I was ashamed of as a coach. Maybe as a player… but that’s another story.”

Though it took more years than it should have, Emory said he couldn’t think of a better set of Pirates to share an induction class with.

“Coming into (the Hall) was perfect,” he said. “With Vinson Smith, one of my all-time favorite players. Vinson grew up basically in poverty and look at the man he turned out to be. When he talked about his life and when he mentioned me, it embarrassed me. He is a fine, fine man, like the rest of the kids from the ‘80s.

“Jeff Blake was a great, great player and having coached his cousin, Reggie Branch, I feel kind of connected to Jeff. And, of course, Henry (VanSant). To come in (to the Hall) with my roommate (in college) was special. Of course, the bad thing is that everyone thinks we’re the same age because of it. Henry is 10 years older than me.”

The Pirate Club and Alumni Athletes

Emory as ECU Coach
(Photo: ECU SID)

During his years as a coach, Emory came to depend on the people around the program as much or more than he did his coaches and players. As he becomes more and more involved with ECU from the alumni perspective, Emory has taken note of the areas that he, as a former player, would like to see grow more.

“We have lost so many great Pirate people over the years and many have not got the recognition they deserve,” he said. “They were all so important to the program. Guys like Lou Hallow and Bill Clark. They helped build our weight room. They helped us recruiting. We would sleep at the homes of Pirate people when we were out recruiting."

Last year, his 1983 club had a 20-year reunion and Emory believes events like that are a start for what needs to happen at ECU.

“Over there at Carolina and down at Clemson, they are doing great, great things to bring their lettermen together,” he said. “We have a lot, a lot of work to do at East Carolina. We need to build a new Pirate Club facility. We need coaches’ offices. That Sports Medicine building, where their offices are, that’s not Division I. The meeting rooms there… not Division I.

“We got to pull together even more now then ever. Dennis Young is doing a great job, the kind of job that only an ECU guy can do for you. Those folks love ECU so much and they are doing a great job. It’s up to all of us (former athletes) to pull together and make things happen there.”

ECU Athletic Leadership

Emory’s tenure as coach at ECU was marked by a friction-filled, tenuous relationship with the athletic leadership at ECU. With the Pirates in the wake of another cantankerous relationship between coach and athletic director, the importance of leadership choices and their impact on the program that Coach John Thompson is trying to build at ECU looms ominously.

With the new chancellor in place in Dr. Steven Ballard, there remains the decision about who should be the director of athletics at ECU.

“I was impressed with the chancellor coming in and starting that Purple Alert about the legislature,” Emory said. “Life ain’t fair, especially when you are East Carolina, so we have to make it fair. (Purple Alert) was impressive. They got some good candidates for athletic director. He’ll probably make a good decision. I understand that they brought in some people who love ECU to help make the decision.

“Whoever it is, he’s got to be a great man who is dedicated to keeping the program going. This whole conference (BCS) thing is going to be brought up again and again and the man they hire better be in their fighting and jockeying for position. At ECU, the chancellor has got to believe in overachieving like Leo Jenkins did, and the Athletic Director needs to be a man who won’t take a backseat to anybody. He cant let anything deter ECU from it’s future.”

Emory believes that there should be no limits to which the university pursues in its quest to find the right person. Though he would not fully endorse any of the candidates, he did have opinions on a couple.

“I was impressed with Nick Floyd’s daddy at Clemson and was impressed with Nick during the Hall of Fame Weekend. I’ve heard good things about Floyd.”

Emory’s philosophy is straightforward when it comes to administering athletics.

“When I was a high school principal – I had open heart surgery and it cut the air off to my brain and that is why I became a principal…” he joked. “I never locked the supply room door. My teachers needed to have what they needed to be successful in the classroom. At Richmond County, I buy my own supplies. I go through 12 legal pads a week writing checklists for my checklists.

"An athletic director needs to be a risk-taker. He needs to do for his program whatever he needs to and work just as hard at that. He can’t always be worried about balancing the budget. He has to get out there and get those things that will help John Thompson get what he needs for his program.

“When I was coaching at East Carolina, I never once had an AD ask me what I needed for my program. You gotta have a guy who is going to find a way to make his head coaches successful. He has to have high energy, be very motivated, and be able to improvise when necessary.”

ECU Recruiting

As the head coach at powerful Richmond County, Emory is in a prime position to give an assessment of East Carolina University recruiting.

“Recruiting is the program’s lifeline,” Emory said. “There are three things in coaching. You’ve got to get the players, keep them, and coach them. If a coach can do that, he can be successful.”

In assessing the recruiting at ECU, Emory notes that the Pirates have a lot going for them in attracting talented ball players.

“Facilities, stadium, schedule, East Carolina has a lot to offer a kid,” he said. “But, what you really should be selling a kid on is Greenville. There is tradition in that town. Greenville is a great town to bring a kid to as far as a real college town. Rather than a kid going to Knoxville, where he’ll get swallowed up, Greenville is a football town.

"A kid ain’t going to play but 24 games on a Saturday in Greenville. There are only so many Saturdays and half the time, he’s going to be gone. It’s the other days that really matter… the Mondays through Fridays when the kid is in Greenville. Gotta sell the school and the town.”

He does his part to promote his alma mater.

“I got that East Carolina jersey hanging on the wall,” he said. “Every coach that walks into my office sees it and knows that my kids see it every day. I never tell the players where to go, that wouldn’t be right. But, when I get one to East Carolina… I’m thrilled.”

None of Emory’s Raiders were picked up by ECU this past season, though two were being pursued.

“Lonnie Galloway really recruited two of my players hard,” Emory said. “They both went to Georgia. One more so because the other went, but coach Galloway did a great job recruiting.”

Though two of his players were courted by ECU, Emory did see a difference this season with ECU recruiting and he hopes it is not a trend developing.

“They gotta recruit more in-state players,” he said. “I know Coach Thompson got in here late last year. It was the same way when I got to East Carolina. I said I was going to recruit every county in the state… every one of them. But then, your realize that it is cheaper to fly to New Jersey to recruit than it is to get out to Asheville. I don’t know what Coach Thompson’s recruiting philosophy is, but you really got to get in-state players.

“Years ago, everyone thought you needed to recruit Yankees. Up there in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio there were more kids. But not enough of them had allegiance to (East Carolina). We were getting a 4th kid from New Jersey and passing up a number 3 in North Carolina and those kids would be more loyal.”

Emory gets straight to the point, noting the large contingent of Florida players signed in Thompson’s first two classes.

“The state of Florida doesn’t have enough athletes to furnish every team in the country,” he said. “Somebody ought to chart all of the kids from Florida who signed with North Carolina State, North Carolina, and East Carolina over four or five years to see how they really did. I spot-recruited Florida and got some good kids, but are they really faster than ours? I hear the (in-state) schools telling me my defensive back is too short (at 5-10) and then they go down there and sign a 5-10 defensive back from Florida.

“Florida is getting watered down. With South Florida and Central Florida and (Howard) Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic, they are swarming all of the Florida players. If he is going to go to Florida for his players, he better be sure he’s not getting 3's and 4's down there. You gotta look hard in you own state. These are kids that follow your program… that have loyalty.”

Emory believes that Thompson will focus more on North Carolina in the coming years and has faith in the new Pirate skipper.

“John Thompson is a man that can (turn it around),” Emory said. “He has the personality and warmth that kids are looking for. How can you not like him? How can a kid not want to play for this man? This guy will do well. Remember Mack Brown? He was 1-10 two years a row and then got players and went to No. 5 in the country.”

Emory also hopes that Thompson understands the relationship between ECU and its ACC neighbors to the west.

“They know we keep knocking on the door,” Emory said of UNC-CH and State backers. “People don’t want us to rise above State and Carolina, but we’ve always been above them because we have more ‘want power’ and that is the greatest power in the world. We need to keep proving that. ECU is about persistence to overcome resistance from Raleigh and Chapel Hill. We need to continue to work harder, longer and smarter.”


As has become analogous with Emory, his Richmond Raiders once again found themselves in the hunt for the state championship. His team found its way to the NCHSAA state title game vs. Charlotte Independence. Lost 8-10 — missed FG at end of game.

“We had a great team with a good tailback, quarterback, offensive line, and some great players on defense,” Emory said of his 2003 Raiders. “(I’ve) won so many games in the fourth quarter in 47 years of coaching… and we went down the field and had them where we wanted them. The, we had two passes dropped… two dropped touchdown passes and a missed field goal.”

And Emory is thinking that, maybe, if his team had been in the east, like it should have been, his boys might not have even needed a field goal at the end.

“We shouldn’t have even been there,” he said. “We are in the east. We won the east and they moved us to the west and that was too far. We could have been playing New Bern in the 14th game and Independence in the 16th game. The rules of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association… I just don’t think they are fair. I don’t pull any punches on this. There are not enough big 4-A schools in the west… but (the NCHSAA executives) live in Raleigh and Chapel Hill and they have their politics.”

As if to segue to a deeper point… the state championships and ECU.

“You know, (the NCHSAA) always worries about how far kids have to travel for a football game and people getting to the game,” Emory said. “If it’s a state championship game, it doesn’t matter where or how far it is, the kids are going to get there. It’s the state championship. East Carolina not getting a state championship game, not being part of the rotation… if I was (John Thompson), I would be politicking every day to get that game. And ECU ought to be part of that rotation… no reason why they shouldn’t… they should have a shot just like they do in Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham.”

But Emory stopped short of an all out lambasting of the NCHSAA.

“Charlie Adams is a friend to East Carolina, absolutely,” he said. “I just think East Carolina should have a shot.”

Life in general

Though he has been coaching for 47 years, Emory says that the off-season never gets easier for a coaching staff. In fact it requires the most diligence if a fall campaign is to be successful.

“It is the toughest time in the world for a coach,” he explained. “All the players (have some kind of problem). Ten percent of the players have academic problems, another 20 percent have women problems, and then there’s 10 percent not sure they want to play. The rest are working hard in the weight room. It’s tough keeping these kids out of trouble.”

For his Raiders, Emory may face his toughest task as the Richmond County coach as he looks to replace 40 seniors. His team will return just three starters and one is, as he puts it, “high risk” and may not be back.

“For the 2004 season, we have the weakest team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Emory said. “Of course, that is why we coach, right? I’ve got a couple of good East Carolina boys coaching for me – Paul Hoggard who played in 1985 and Nick Giddings (2000). We are all looking forward to the season, but it does feel like it gets tougher and tougher every year to keep the kids motivated. Very fortunate to be in Rockingham where football is so important to everyone. We have great participation and great tradition, which are two things that are hard to have sometimes. Expectations are always high here and that is wonderful, ‘cause I want to win them all.

“For me, the situation is better now than in a long time. Probably because I’m not politicking for anything these days. I’m not looking for a job, so when coaches come in and John Thompson was in sometime last week, I used to spend a lot of time building bridges to help get the next job. Now, though, I come home when I’m done for the day. Of course, I hope that that is how they put me in the casket… coaching.”

Emory had a bit of a medical scare recently when he had to have some work done on a corroded artery.

“I just had some problems that shouldn’t have been major,” he said. “But like coaches… there are some good doctors, some average doctors, and some great doctors. I didn’t have a great doctor and they cut my vocal chord… had to get that all fixed up.”

Recovered, Emory admits that football is still what he loves in this world the most.

“Football is more a thrill than ever,” he said. “My whole thing is to give kids an option to do things after high school. I met with some of my kids last week. They have athletic ability but not academics. They think that there is some magic wand that is going to fix everything. It isn’t like that. But I do what I can for them.”

He is proud of his players. His former players are like a growing list of sons, many of whom still call and come by years after Emory coached them.

“I have a meeting with Eric Terry because he’s not doing what he is supposed (up at ECU),” Emory said. “I’m going talk to him. He started to play last season and now his grades are a problem. Thos grades got his attention now… yes we are going to have a talk.”

Emory does what he can, though he admitted that sometimes, the kids just don’t seem to understand.

“They think Ed is just going to take care of all of them,” he said of his former players. “I got a letter from Atlanta (in recent weeks) and it was from a boy who went down to get him job in the Job Corps but they didn’t take him. So, the kid calls me wanting a ticket home. I’ve had (former players) call asking for help on the rent or for money. It is not necessarily football the are calling about.”

Still, Emory can't resist being there for his players… it is that loyalty that he values so dearly.

“You live this long, you get a bunch of kids,” he said. “I’ve never lost a player… they seem to just stay around. That is a wonderful part of coaching. If I could win that lottery, I would help them all, all of the time.”

Emory sees some parallels between his Raiders in the Pirates and is looking forward to the fall to see what the future holds for both programs.

“It’s going to be exciting to see how both the Raiders and Pirates do this season,” he said. “Both are struggling and have a tough schedule. They both are looking for improvement. When ECU gets that quarterback situation in shape, they will (get better). I know Coach Thompson thinks he’s found himself a quarterback (in James Pinkney) and I know (Thompson) is excited about Noah Brindise and his offense.”

He is looking forward to coaching and keeping up with the Pirates. He is a content coach these days. Of course, he couldn’t resist being clear on one front, should it ever occur.

“If they offered me the (head coaching) job at East Carolina,” he said. “I’d take it in a minute.”

Send an e-mail message to Ron Cherubini.

Click here to dig into Ron Cherubini's Bonesville archives.

Related Ed Emory stories:
   Catching up with a Pirate Hall of Famer
   Life ain't been fair... but it's been a good one
   A Pirate forsaken: The end of a dream
   '83 team: A picture of the future of Pirate football


"Cap'n Crunch" Kepley
LB 1971-74

(From the 2002 Bonesville Magazine)
Ed Emory: 'Life ain't been fair to Ed Emory,' but it's been a good one Through it All, Lifetime Coach Ed Emory Wouldn't Change a Thing

A Pirate Forsaken: The End of a Dream Despite the Pain, Emory Forever Bleeds Pirate Purple

That '83 Team: A picture of the future of Pirate Football Arguably, Emory Assembled the Greatest ECU Team Ever to Hit the Field


Ed Emory

(Photo: ECU SID)





Years at ECU:

1956-59 and 1979-84


Tackle/ 48

Head Coach

Lancaster, SC

Currently Resides:

Wadesboro, NC

  • High School Principal

  • Head Coach at Richmond Senior High School
  • BS  Physical Education/Social Studies, East Carolina University

  • MA Administration/Physical Education, East Carolina University 

Marital Status/Spouse:

Married, Katheryn

  • Eddie Jr.
  • Lucille
  • Emory Hendricks
  • Battle Hawkins

If you get a kid to believe in you, then you can help them do anything. Then, you can love them, hug them, kick them sometimes when you have to, drive them, get the very best out of them. They understand this old coach.”


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02/23/2007 02:12:59 PM

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