Hairston Earns Starting Job

After four seasons filled with injuries and being a reserve back, Chris Hairston finally got an opportunity to be a feature back in his senior year. In his first game he took advantage of the opportunity.

Vintavious Cooper and Breon Allen have been the feature running backs for East Carolina the past three seasons. For the 2015 season, its Chris Hairston’s chance to be the lead back and he has waited three years for the opportunity.

Ruffin McNeil was proud of Hairston’s performance against Towson this past Saturday. Scoring four touchdowns while also rushing for 154-yards, Hairston capitalized on an opportunity at a starting spot that he patiently awaited for.

“Chris has earned it,” said McNeil. “He’s paid the price and is one of those guys that has fought through adversity, shared the position, got limited reps, but he made every rep valuable.”

Injuries plagued Hairston early which stunted his growth at East Carolina. A redshirt freshman in 2011, Hairston suffered a season-ending knee injury during ECU’s off week. Then he was sidelined in the spring of 2013 because of a shoulder ailment. Suffering two injuries in his career, Hairston did not know if he would ever be the same.

“I didn’t think I would ever be at the level I am at now,” said Hairston. “With the injuries that I had, I never thought I would be the same again, but I’m actually better and stronger.”

Fighting through a shoulder injury in the 2013 season, Hairston went on to play all 13 games as a reserve running back. Third on the team in rushing, Hairston would watch Vintavious Cooper finish his career ranked ninth on ECU’s all-time rushing list.

In 2014 Hairston would get more playing time and even started twice against N.C. Central and Florida. He finished the season second on the team in rushing with 528 yards on 79 carries, but led the team with 6.7 yards per carry. Still, Breon Allen would be the feature back and lead the team with 869-yards.

“Everything, I’ve learned a lot from those guys,” said Hairston. “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to play behind them and I learned a lot from them. Basically everything about being a running back, I learned from them.

Now in 2015, Hairston is a senior and a leader for the running backs. Assuming the role that Cooper and Breon occupied while Hairston was a young back, Hairston is now showing his leadership skills.

“He might not be a big talker,” said running backs coach Kirk Doll, “But everybody sees how he works and he treats each play in practice like it is a game.”

After a four touchdown performance, Hairston will look to continue his good play against upcoming foe, Florida. Hairston knows it will be tough, but they will have to maintain their focus in the hostile environment of the Swamp.

“Just focus,” he said. “Execute every play. Do what you are supposed to do. It’s going to be loud in there, so we are going to have to focus and get the play calls and checks. Every play is going to be competitive.”

The game against Florida, in the Birmingham bowl last season, was Hairston’s second start as a Pirate. Hairston rushed for 73-yards on 17 carries against the Gators.

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