Pam Pack welcoming speakers throughout preseason

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2017

With the first official day of preseason practices come nervousness, anxiety, and most of all, excitement. It’s the reward of being able to add contact after summer workouts that seemingly never end. It’s also the byproduct of realizing that the season opens in a few short weeks.

Washington has shown for months that it’s motivated to change the program’s culture after a three-win campaign in 2016. The Pam Pack has been dialed in in the weight room and on the practice field.

Added encouragement is never bad, though. That’s why coach Jon Blank has reached out to past Washington greats to come speak to the current players during practices in this first week of the preseason. Monday featured former quarterback Jimmy Williams.

The recent Pam Pack standout, who is now slated to be one of East Carolina’s top wide receivers this season, spoke on a plethora of topics. One of the most important was taking pride in Washington and what the football program means to the tight-knit community.

“Taking pride in where you’re from and taking pride in what you don’t have,” Williams explained. “A lot of people take pride in what they do have. You’ve got to take pride in what you don’t have. We don’t have the super facilities around here. We don’t have the best practice gear, and all of that. What we do have is a small-knit community that’s easy to bring together. You’ve got to take pride in that.

“… If you wear it on your heart and you work harder than everybody else, it doesn’t matter the size, speed, the talent level. If you’re playing together and you’re all one big heart, and you’ve all got that same pride in your city and where you’re from, you can do anything.”

Jimmy Williams makes a move after grabbing a pass during an ECU game last season. Williams, a former Washington quarterback, was the week’s first speaker. He stressed the importance of taking pride in the program and Washington as a whole.

Williams knows all about being proud of doing more with less. The Pam Pack’s amenities have improved since he graduated after the 2012 season, but that didn’t stop him from helping double Washington’s win total from his junior to senior year.

“We beat a lot of good teams and won 10 games my last year. That’s real big, and it started something here as far as tradition,” Williams said. The Pam Pack won 12 games the year after and played for a state championship in 2014.

Washington is in very much the same situation now. To restore the program to the prominence it recently enjoyed, the players are going to have to work harder and play for one another. Just like Williams and his team did five years ago, this iteration of the Pam Pack is going to have to beat more talented teams.

That’s why the message resonated with the players. Washington opens the season at East Carteret, which is consistently one of the state’s top 1-A teams. They also play top-tier teams like Tarboro, Conley, and local foe Northside in the non-conference stretch. Its new conference presents a challenging squad nearly ever week: Greene Central, Ayden-Grifton, Kinston, West Craven, and others.

“It’s real inspirational to me,” junior linebacker/tight end Chase Ambrose said. “When he was talking about us being ‘little’ Washington, the little ones, and how everyone looks at us, what I took that as was that we might be little. But, with hard work, we can come out on top if we really try.

“That’s what it was like when he was here. They worked hard, put everything into it, and beat good teams. I definitely listened to that, and I’m going to take it to other teams.”

Reactions like this is why Blank wanted to make guest speakers not just a part of the early preseason, but also a staple throughout the year. Other former players coming out this week include E.J. Peartree, Stevie Green, Jamond Ebron, Karim Topping and Terrance Copper. Peartree, Green, Ebron and Topping all played on the 2014 squad that went to the state-title game. Copper, after graduation from Washington, went on to make a name for himself with the Pirates and in the NFL.

“Those guys are going come in and really motivate our players. They’ve been here, they’ve done it, and they’ve helped build what our program should be,” Blank said. “We always talk about the Long Blue Line. I think, for some reason, our kids have lost a sense of tradition recently. The Long Blue Line hasn’t meant as much to them. I wanted to bring in people who are part of the Long Blue Line.”

Washington will host its annual Meet the Pack event on Friday from 7:30-9 p.m. at First Church of Christ. Its preseason work will culminate in its Aug. 18 season opener at East Carteret.