A Pirate on Pit Road

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCT) – There are currently 7 former Pirate football players in the NFL.

ECU has proven to be a great feeder to the pros. But not just professional football.

Dustin Lineback played for East Carolina from 2007 to 2011. Today, he’s the front tire carrier for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“After I graduated from ECU, I tried to make it in the pro leagues,” explained Dustin Lineback. “You know, I bounced around the UFL and the Canadian League for a little while. And it just isn’t, sometimes it just doesn’t pan out for you.”

But with adversity, came opportunity. Dustin took the advice from a family friend, and traded in the pigskin for the pit crew.

“For the first week, I called my dad, and I was like, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this,” said Lineback.

Though, Dustin, the former walk-on turned starting linebacker at ECU, knows a thing or two about work ethic.

Within a couple years, Dustin worked his way up to the 88 car, where he’s the front tire carrier for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Dale Jr. is our leader. And he’s our quarterback. And we’re the O-Line. We’ve got to protect him, make sure he comes down, he needs new tires and fuel, we put them on there, make sure they’re all tight. Let him send it on the track safely,” commented Lineback.

“It’s all sort of a domino effect and it starts with the carrier getting the wheel index,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. “They practice every day. They put in a lot of effort and a lot of work to get competitive.”

In a lot of ways, Pirate football was the perfect test-track for Dustin. First, there’s the contact element.

“Yeah, I’ve been hit three times this year,” said Lineback. “My own teammate, Jeff Gordon, kind of nicked me one time in Atlanta.”

And then the crowd.

“I’d say Dowdy-Ficklen could compete with the biggest tracks,” commented Lineback.

But Dustin credits ECU most of all for developing his character.

“How to show up, grind it out, learn it, be mentally prepared,” explained Lineback.

Whatever he tackles, picks off, or picks up next, Dustin Lineback is proof, that in struggle comes strength.

“Anytime in football, you’re not going to have a perfect season, and that’s the way this sports is, too,” explained Lineback.

Those tires by the way weigh 70 pounds a piece.

And Dustin knows his body won’t be able to lift them forever. Thus, he splits his time pursuing a second passion, coaching.

The 27-year old is an assistant coach at Charlotte Catholic High School. He hopes to coach d1 football after his time in NASCAR.

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