ECU Head Football Coach Mike Houston led his new team onto the practice field Friday morning with a clear and concise message.
The culture will change. Every snap, drill and play will serve a purpose.
In his first official practice at the helm leading the Pirates, Houston emphasized the concept of team over individual accolades, with every player getting a chance to show how they can collectively help change the narrative.
Friday was an extension of Houston’s vision since accepting the position back in December.
Every detail, from replacing old carpet lining the hallways, to ensuring his players are constantly reminded of the program’s past success with carefully placed quotes positioned on walls in the locker room, hallways and player’s lounge, is part of Houston’s goal to elevate the ECU program to new and unprecedented heights.
“We are going to take the field with some kind of purpose,” Houston said after Friday morning’s two-hour practice session. “We are going to sprint onto the football field. When the ball is snapped, we are going to play fast, decisive football. Our defense is going to run their butt to the football, I promise you that.”
From the first whistle at precisely 8 a.m., each snap, play and drill was executed with a clear sense of urgency. The sounds of cranes, drills and construction crews working on the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium renovation project were deafened by constant instruction from Houston, his energetic staff and even communication among players.
Walking on and off the field wasn’t tolerated. Positive reinforcement overshadowed negative banter. Coaches spoke, players listened.
Behind a backdrop of well-meshed up-tempo music, head strength and conditioning coach John Williams got the morning off to a rousing start by providing commands and motivational messages during ECU’s stretch period.
“Hey Pirates, are you ready?” Williams exclaimed as the team stood in front of him waiting for his command.
“Ready,” the squad replied in unison.
“No surrender,” Williams shouted.
“No retreat,” the team replied, once again, in perfect unison before knocking out a series of 10 jumping jacks.
Williams — like the rest of the 2019 coaching staff — is a direct reflection of Houston’s coaching style. Every position coach is energetic and engaged at all times, and the team appeared to respond accordingly on its initial outing of the season.
“There’s an expectation for our staff as well,” Houston explained. “We’ve all been together. They understand how we want to practice. I’m a firm believer that your position group is a reflection of you as a coach. They take a lot of pride in what they do and I don’t have a bunch of rookies out there, I have veteran guys who know how to get the most out of our players.”
All eight early enrollees participated in their first ECU practice Friday – DB Alex Angus, QB Bryan Gagg, DL Hozey Haji-Badri, WR Jsi Hatfield, OL Bailey Malovic, DB Ja’Quan McMillian, PK Patrick Nations and DB Juan Powell … The Pirates will be in shorts & helmets again during Saturday’s session to complete their “acclimation” period before moving to pads for Monday’s first full-contact workout.
Next Workout: Saturday, March 16 (9-11 a.m.)
Remaining Workouts: March 18, March 20, March 22, March 23, March 27, March 29, March 30 (scrimmage), April 1, April 3, April 6 (scrimmage), April 8, April 10, April 13 (Purple-Gold Game, 1:30 p.m.)