ECU royalty visits Washington

Published 1:30 pm Thursday, July 17, 2014




For The Washington Daily News


WASHINGTON — The Beaufort County Pirate Club, ECU’s largest chapter, received a visit Wednesday night from some of ECU athletics’ most notable figureheads at the Washington Civic Center.

It was rare opportunity for Pirate Club members to mingle with the likes of Athletic Director Jeff Compher, women’s basketball head coach Heather Macy and football head coach Ruffin McNeill; and for many, it was a first encounter with newly appointed head baseball coach Cliff Godwin.

Godwin, who was a catcher for the Pirates from 1998 to 2001, returns to his alma mater after stints at Central Florida and LSU, among others. Most recently, he was the assistant coach at Ole Miss, who qualified for the College World Series this past spring under his direction.

“The fans here are unparalleled,” said Godwin before the banquet. “They’re a close-knit group of people – like a family. People who were in ‘the Jungle’ when I played are here tonight and that’s pretty neat.”

Godwin was adamant about emphasizing the Pamlico region in terms of both fan support and recruiting.

“Back when we were winning here, eastern North Carolina was vital to our success, so recruiting will start in Greenville and expand throughout eastern North Carolina.”

Compher and Coach Macy commented on both the excitement and expectations that come with ECU’s move to the American Athletic Conference, but with football season fast approaching, Ruffin McNeill stole the show. The audience, which was roughly 150-strong, gave the now fifth-year head coach a standing ovation after the speaker reminded them of last season’s pair of historic victories in both Raleigh and Chapel Hill. But McNeill was focused on the present.

“This team has really bought in,” he said. “They believe in what we’re doing, they believe in our staff and most importantly, they believe in themselves and police themselves. I like this team’s competitive spirit.”

ECU football players have a grueling offseason schedule orchestrated by one of the most notable strength coaches in the country, Jeff Connors. Given the size and speed that Connors provides to Pirate players, McNeill believes his team can play with anyone.

“He gets us in a position where we can play full speed for four quarters. He’s an expert at both strength and speed, but people don’t know how huge he is in building team chemistry.”

McNeill also commented on former Pam Pack star Jimmy Williams, who will be vying for time at inside receiver in his upcoming sophomore year after going down with a knee injury in ECU’s fifth game of the 2013 season.

“We’re so proud of how Jimmy has progressed,” said McNeill. “He came back this spring with a vengeance. He’s got a chance to be a special player. He’s still got some growing up to do physically, but he’ll attack it. I’m very proud of what Jimmy has done.”