Been in the throws of putting together this year’s edition of Bonesville Magazine and have been interviewing a never-ending (seemingly) number of our newest Pirates to get their personal ECU stories.
For 17 and 18 year olds, their stories never cease to impress me…their concerns, their fears, their impressions, and the things they most value. And, their coaches…some of these old dogs have been around the block so often, they can’t help but be straight and without pretense when talking about ECU, its recruiting methods, and what it takes to get a high profile player to tip to the Pirates.
Well…there are some great, great stories among this crop of kids, but here is a tidbit I couldn’t help but share with you guys because it is less about a player or his coach, but rather about a former Pirate coach whose character stands out when many of us – given his situation – might not have been the better man.
Many of us were stunned when we learned that Marquez Grayson had decided – well after national signing day – to make his college choice to become an ECU Pirate. Not only had he been rated as high as No. 9 among high school RBs in the nation by some of the recruiting services, but not known to many around was that he was getting massive recruiting pressure from SEC, ACC, and Big 12 schools right up till the end. No…he didn’t come to ECU because of academics. There is much more to it than that. But, you have to read the magazine to get that story. HOWEVER, there is an angle that I want to share.
So, back during Grayson’s junior year and heading into his senior season, ECU was heavily recruiting him. Had him way above Jabo Lee on the wish list. Brian Mitchell – the since fired Defensive Coordinator for ECU – was the recruiting coach for the area and went into Lexington High – back when he was working on getting Quandarius Crump to say yes. He asked the coaches at Lexington if ECU even had a chance with Grayson. Given that Notre Dame was flying in to see him and Clemson and USC were battling for best flights to get to see him first and more often, it was not an altogether weird question. He wasn’t the only one asking by the way, he would run into N.C. State and Wake Forest recruiters…Kentucky recruiters…others…all asking…”do we have a shot?” The answer was…”well…maybe.” Mitchell then told the coaches…”well…you know…we are going to recruit him like he wants to come here.”
Of course, a good recruiting coach can’t help but to forge personal relationships with players – it just is being good at your job – and Mitchell put in a yeoman’s effort, drawing rave reviews from the coaches at Lexington, particularly Kwayu Graham – the head man for the Yellow Jackets last season. Graham was the one who had told Mitchell that “Grayson wasn’t your typical kid” and that things like recruiting him like you love him as a person…matter. So Mitchell went all in, despite the big dogs, the money schools, always cutting in line for visits and getting more of the air time. The impression was a deep one for Grayson. He probably didn’t quite know it, but that impression may have been in the background when he let NSD come and go without putting his name on paper anywhere.
But here is where it gets even better – at least for my point here.
Mitchell was fired. FIRED…told to hit the pavement by the Pirates.
So, of course, West Virginia comes walking into the picture and Grayson really gave big pause to the opportunity. He really had bonded with Mitchell…trusted him. Now Mitchell wanted him there, no doubt. But, when West Virginia RB coach Robert Gillespie left for the same position at Tennessee, the game changed for Grayson who then wanted to look around again. ECU had sort of fallen off the radar with the firing of Mitchell – understandbly. But here is the character part. With WVU out of Grayson’s plans, and with every reason not to pick up the phone, Mitchell calls Graham at Lexington and says, “Hey coach…I want to give you a phone number for Marquez.”
He encouraged Graham to put ECU back in the picture…to call and re-open that link…that Grayson was so coveted by ECU, it would be a shame for him not to see what the Pirates have to offer. That with Lee backing out and Grayson available, Mitchell could complete his original intention: Grayson in Pirates purple. I don’t know about you, but had I been fired…not sure I would have done the same. But Mitchell put the kid first and his appreciation for what ECU is ahead of any personal angst he might (or might not) have had. That’s first class in my book. Always liked Brian, but this is a glimpse, IMO, of why Coach Ruff wanted him to be part of the Pirates staff in the first place.
For Marquez’s part…it took one visit and ECU had him. Good-bye to a host of callers bidding for his services…bye to SEC, ACC, Big 12, and Big East suitors…hello ECU. And he is a good, good player.
There is a lot more on this one…but…yeppers…got to by the magazine…which is easy to do: join the PC!