Lawrence battling to return to ECU roster|Swine flu partially causes fullback star to miss first practice

Published 11:21 am Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — East Carolina held its first official practice of the season on a sweltering Friday afternoon. However, former Washington Pam Pack star Gerald Lawrence wasn’t one of the players on the field.
The ECU fullback, anxious to see playing time this season, was dealt a setback just a couple weeks ago. Lawrence, the son of Raymond and Lynett Lawrence, came down with the swine flu.
“I had no idea I could get that,” Lawrence said Friday evening. “It hit me out of nowhere. It was like 92 degrees, but I still felt cold even when I was outside. I had chills, fever, body aches, felt weak and just felt wore down.”
Lawrence said he spent a little time in the hospital, where he received three IV bags to help fight off dehydration.
“I had to miss workouts and a couple days of camp,” said Lawrence, the 2005 WDN Defensive Player of the Year. “That was a big setback.”
ECU head coach Skip Holtz said Lawrence also needs to work on his academics before getting back with the team.
The 5-10, 220-pound junior, who plans to switch his major to physical education, said that shouldn’t be a problem.
“I had one bad class this summer,” Lawrence said. “I have to talk with my academic advisors and see what changes I have to make.
“I’m planning to meet up with coach Holtz next week as well.”
Lawrence, who transferred to ECU from Elizabeth City State University three years ago, and moved from linebacker to fullback, is anxious to rejoin his teammates.
“I just have to stay healthy,” he said. “It’s kind of frustrating.”
Lawrence believes he’ll be back with the Pirates.
“I’m very confident,” he said. “I have a goal I have to meet. I’m a hard worker. I have my mind set and nothing is going to come between it.”
Holtz, in his fifth season as leader of the Pirates, was pleased to be back on the field.
The 105-man preseason roster worked out in shorts and helmets Friday afternoon. The Pirates, last year’s Conference USA champions, will hold single workouts through Tuesday.
"It’s great to be back on the grass,” Holtz said. “Starting with the first day in shorts it was great to be back on the field, especially with so many upperclassmen running around like Patrick Pinkney, Dominique Lindsay, J.R. Rogers, Sean Allen, Jamar Bryant and Alex Taylor on offense. Then you go over to the other side of the ball and look at your front seven and you have one junior and six seniors. In the secondary you have two more upperclassmen in Van Eskridge and Levin Neal."
Holtz was pleased with the team’s enthusiasm.
"It's nice to have all this experience and guys that have seen a lot of action on offense and defense," Holtz said. "They came out here today and communicated well and were excited about it. But at the same time, when you have a seasoned, veteran group like this, I think they are ready to put on the pads.
“They worked hard all summer and they looked good, but we still have a long way to go. I think the key to this camp is going to be how well we develop these younger players.”
The Pirates will put on shoulder pads for the first time Sunday, before putting on full gear for Tuesday’s practice.
The first of two-a-day practices will begin Wednesday.
ECU will hold scrimmages Aug. 15, Aug. 22 and Aug. 28.
The Pirates kick off the season Sept. 5 at home against Appalachian State.