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Dancy takes long road to ECU

GREENVILLE — Will Dancy remembers his first time playing in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. East Carolina fans might remember it too. He was dressed in Tar Heel blue and on the wrong end of a 70-41 loss.

“I played in the game,” he recalled of the 2013 matchup between ECU and UNC. “I just remember how great of an environment it was.”

Now, though, Dancy is inching closer to a return to Bagwell Field — only this time he’ll have traded in his Tar Heel garb for purple and gold.

Dancy, a graduate transfer offensive guard from North Carolina, decided to make a change after receiving his degree in June. Hailing from Graham, N.C., the 6-foot-4, 310-pound lineman already had an in-state school in mind.

Head coach Scottie Montgomery and his staff knew very little about Dancy when he reached out to them this past offseason. While an offensive coordinator at Duke, Montgomery faced off against Dancy’s Tar Heels but little impression was made at the time.

It wasn’t until Dancy made the decision to transfer that he called Montgomery and his staff to inquire about a spot. Having started all 13 games as a junior in 2014 before an injury hampered his would-be senior season, the ECU coaching staff was quick to offer him a chance.

“I knew about him,” first-year ECU offensive line coach Geep Wade said. “But the thing about it is that we didn’t contact him. He wanted to be here so he’s excited to be here.”

Dancy’s arrival at ECU wasn’t just a short trip across the state. Instead, he had to fly across the country and cut his teeth at the JUCO level since he wasn’t recruited by any Division I football teams out of high school.

It was at Eastern Arizona College when teams started to take notice of Dancy’s size and technique. In May of 2013, Dancy came back to his home state and signed with the Tar Heels. He was an impact player almost immediately, appearing in 10 games on special teams and offense.

Wade was coy about hinting at what the offensive line will look like when the season opens Sept. 3 against Western Carolina, but Dancy has been getting first-team snaps and appears to be in a position to lock up a starting spot in a group with positions up for grab.

“He’s a tough kid. He’s a bright kid. He’s played ball, so he has experience and experience matters in this level, so he’s been a bright spot,” Wade said. “He gives us a year of buffer, a year that we can give the young guys more time to develop.”

While Dancy and the rest of the Pirates are focused on Western Carolina and the season-opener, the fifth-year senior can’t help but look ever so slightly ahead at the following week’s matchup with a familiar in-state opponent.

“I’ve always hated (N.C.) State,” he said of ECU’s Week 2 opponent. “It doesn’t matter where I am, I do not like N.C. State so I’m looking forward to that. Just like Carolina and State, I think ECU and State is a bigger rivalry. They’re going to be riled up just like we’re going to be riled up so it’s about keeping your emotions in check.”

Dancy certainly brings some know-how about the Wolfpack, but his potential impact in the locker room can’t be understated, either. With 13 underclassmen offensive lineman, the Pirates were in need of experience. Dancy, along with five fellow upperclassmen, will likely be leaned upon to made an early impact on the field and to mentor the younger players for future roles.

“I’m coming in here to do the best I can and help everybody,” Dancy said. “I can help the younger guys, like the freshmen, because I want to coach some day so I try to help them and be a leader to them.”