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Godwin emphasizes academics to Southside athletes

East Carolina University baseball coach Cliff Godwin looked at home out of uniform as he spoke to around 175 Southside student-athletes Tuesday morning in the school’s auditorium.

The Snow Hill native and former Greene Central three-sport standout told the group that coming from a small town and small school environment was a barrier to success only if the students let it be.

“You have more opportunities to be involved in things in a small school, but you have to want to take advantage of them,” Godwin said. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was play high school sports with my dad as my coach, but it worked out pretty well. He was tougher on me than the rest because he didn’t want them to think he was playing favorites, but it made me better. You can’t be afraid of hard work and you have to push yourself.”

Seahawks athletic director Andre Quinerly played football for Godwin’s dad, Lewis, at Greene Central.

“He was my defensive coordinator and I remember Cliff when he was a youngster running around during practice,” Quinerly said. “His dad was tough, but he was a huge influence on me and I use what he taught me with our football team.”

The students listened as Godwin described his rise from an unpaid assistant at UNC-Wilmington, to Vanderbilt, then to Mississippi St. and back to his alma mater, first as an assistant, then to his current title of head coach.

“We were hosting a high school showcase with the best 150 players from east of the Mississippi River at UNCW and college coaches from every big school were there,” Godwin told the audience. “I was taught to work hard at an early age, so I was throwing batting practice, raking the field between games, just doing what was needed and the Vanderbilt coach (Tim Corbin) noticed. He hired me and my career took off from there.”

Southside senior Shawn Gerard, who plays also football and basketball, was the conference baseball player of the year last spring as a catcher.

He said he’s heard some of the same things from his high school coaches, but it was good to hear it from Godwin.

“The part about never knowing who is watching really hit me,” Gerard said. “You have to push yourself to hustle and take care of academics even when you don’t want to if you want to keep playing in college. I follow ECU baseball and it was great that he came to talk to us.”

Godwin emphasized that the Pirates have a team GPA of at least 3.41 for the last four years and that prospective college athletes can increase their options with solid academics in high school.

He also warned of the pitfalls of social media and advised the group to not post things they wouldn’t want a coach or future employer to see.

“If your name is on it, make sure it’s your best work,” Godwin said. “Bad decisions have repercussions in the real world. You don’t do your job, you get fired. Your actions speak louder than words and if I have two players with similar talent, I’m taking the one with solid grades and good character. Make sure your personal brand is one that somebody wants to buy.”