Pirates Report To Fall Camp

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU football players checked into fall camp and into their new homes for the next few weeks Sunday.

Summer has officially ended for the East Carolina football team. One after one, players filed into the Ward Sports Medicine Building on a rainy Sunday afternoon to report to fall camp, which begins Monday.

The process began with players being fitting for equipment. Then they were given a physical, then ushered to the main lobby for headshots, then posed in front of a green screen for future scoreboard videos and then finally given keys to their new home during camp — Aycock Residence Hall.

Monday marks the first time since spring that ECU coaches are permitted to work directly with the players, who spent the entire summer under the tutelage of the team’s demanding strength and conditioning coach, Jeff Connors.

“I didn’t even know you could feel that way,” said sophomore wide receiver Davon Grayson when asked to describe what a summer with Connors is like. “Spending time with Coach (Connors) all day is hard.”

Grayson and his fellow receiver and roommate, Isaiah Jones, arrived to Aycock within seconds of each other, both dodging raindrops, yet beaming at the sight of their teammates as they moved into the dorm.

Over a span of three hours, several television sets emerged from cars and were carried into the redbrick building. So were video game consoles and enough water and Gatorade to last months for a typical college student.

“You need to have some snacks, you need to have the water and Gatorade, a nice warm bed to come back to, but most importantly, just your friends and teammates to lean on,” said Jones. “It’s just all fun right now, enjoying football and getting back in the swing of things.”

Head Coach Ruffin McNeill often times refers to the football program as a family — calling himself the “dad,” assistant coaches “uncles” and the players his children. However, during the regular school year, his children’s homes are dispersed all across Greenville, varying from dorms to apartments to houses.

But over the next couple of weeks, all of the players will share the same roof and spend the bulk of their off time in compressed dorm rooms.

“We’re all in these little crammed dorm rooms, but it’s nice,” Jones said, smiling. “I think it’s what we need to gel closer as a family. We’re not last year’s team. We’re a brand new team … so being in the dorm rooms and getting that camaraderie is just an awesome thing.”

One year ago, Jones and Grayson were freshmen and had to prove in fall camp that they belonged on the field and not on the bench as red-shirts. For many of the younger players, that will be the challenge this month leading up until the Pirates’ season opener against North Carolina Central on Aug 30.

Fall camp will be the host of many blistering afternoon practices, two-a-days and intensified position battles for not only starting jobs, but also spots in ECU’s rotations both offensively and defensively.

“It’s a tough process, it’s a grueling time of summer. Camp is not easy, it’s hard,” said Jones, “but just having your coaches and being able to lean on them and having your teammates, that is just what we need most importantly.”

The start of football season is beginning to feel real. The players are in camp and practice kicks off Monday. It’s here. Let the fun begin.

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