Familiarity breeds success

ECU defensive backs Chip Thompson and Adonis Armstrong have shared the field since junior college. Inside ECU Sports has a look at how their relationship has developed all the way to the Division-1 level.

Hinds Community College is located in Raymond, Mississippi. It's also the birthplace of the relationship between two of ECU's current starting defensive backs.

Seniors Adonis Armstrong (cornerback) and Chip Thompson (safety) have a unique story behind them. It's very rare two players from the same area and the same junior college (JUCO) end up playing together at the Division-1 level.

For Thompson and Armstrong that's exactly how things went and their relationship has flourished since their first meeting.

"I heard of Chip when a girl at my high school I knew had a crush on him," said Adonis Armstrong. "I didn't know exactly who he was when he joined the team (Hinds), but over the summer we would run sprints and lift weights together so we got close. It kicked off from there. We started helping each other out with advice and competing with each other, we still do."

The two played high school football within 20 minutes of each other in Mississippi. Armstrong went to Clinton High School (Clinton, Miss) and Thompson went to Forest Hill in Jackson.

"We played each other in high school, but didn't realize it," Chip Thompson said. "I met Adonis sophomore year at Hinds and the relationship developed fast. We would hang out outside of football and got familiar with each other quick."

Playing in the secondary is about communication, if a unit can't communicate properly it means big plays and missed assignments. The relationship between cornerbacks and safeties is important for a defense's success and a properly developed relationship can lead to game-changing plays.

Thompson said Armstrong both credited their communication and familiarity for their success on the field.

"Here at ECU our relationship allows me to play looser," Thompson said. "I know (Adonis) will be covering the sideline so it gives me chance to come in and make the big hit or make the big play for the team."

"It really helps," Armstrong said about the familiarity. "I know I can do things that he can make up for and he knows the same. For instance, if the running back is coming I know (Chip) is crashing hard inside so I need to stay outside so he can make a big hit and get the whole crowd rowdy. If he misses then I'm right there to make the tackle.

Both defensive backs have gotten their hands on the ball in the last two games for ECU (VirginiaTech and UNC Chapel Hill), each with interceptions. Armstrong had a beautiful sideline interception against the Hokies, while Thompson recognized a play and baited a wide receiver into a deep interception at Chapel Hill.

Thompson had a monster game against the Tar Heels with six tackles and an interception in the first quarter alone. He finished with a team leading nine tackles and is confident about his ability moving forward.

"I always knew I could play like this," Thompson said. "In the first couple of games I just wasn't getting the plays lined up. I knew we could make these plays and I think we're going to get our hands on the ball again this week."

Armstrong saw a defensive pass-interference call take away an interception against the Tar Heels.

Thompson and Armstrong's relationship, combined with defensive coordinator Rick Smith's return, has helped the 2013 Pirate secondary improve with each game.

"Coach Smith always says you're only as good as your last play," Armstrong said. "We can't get complacent. We have to stay hungry and confident. I don't think we've reached our full potential yet. The past four games we've given up some big plays that we shouldn't' have. I think we can get better."

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