Eastern North Carolina Football Talent
by Brian North

The latest NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again Eastern North Carolina was well represented. Since moving down east in 1998, I have been amazed at the football talent that is produced by this part of the country, in spite of the relatively sparse population.

This year will be one to remember. Mario Williams made history as the first player chosen. The Richlands native (located just west of Jacksonville in Onslow County) will forever be scrutinized because of his lofty draft status. But my fondest memories are when the "Big Cat" was running back his senior year at Richlands. The sight of the 6'7" man-child carrying the ball and running over smaller defenders will always stand out in my mind.

But Mario was not alone in his lofty draft status. His NC State teammate Manny Lawson (Eastern Wayne High School, Goldsboro) was taken in the first round by the 49ers, and tightend T.J. Williams (Tarboro) was a 6th round selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And Havelock native Guy Whimper (Craven County) was the only Pirate chosen in this year's draft, but his fellow Ram and ECU teammate Chris Moore signed a free agent contract with the Saints. Chris told me he "will make the team," and knowing his heart after watching him in person the last seven years, I won't be surprised to see New Orleans keep him.

If Chris makes the NFL, he will join a pretty good group of Eastern North Carolinians who have played in the league. Fellow Pirates Terrance Copper (Washington HS now with the Cowboys), George Koonce (West Craven HS, played with the Packers and Seahawks), and Leonard Henry (Clinton HS, played with the Dolphins) all played at football's highest level in the last 10 years.

Other ENC'ers with NFL experience come from all over our local map. New Bern is represented by Brian Simmons (Eight years and counting with the Bengals), and Jeremy McDaniel (Bills and currently playing for Chicago Rush in Arena League). Anthony Wright (Steelers, Cowboys, Ravens, & now Bengals) came out of West Craven High School, as did Jesse Campbell (Giants & Redskins), and Roland Hooks (Buffalo Bills). Jacksonville produced Qasim Mitchell (Bears), Quincy Monk (formerly of the Giants & Texans), and Marcus Jones (retired from Buccaneers). Sam Aiken (WR for the Bills) went to James Kenan High School in Duplin County. Super Bowl star Willie Parker (Steelers) followed Leonard Henry at Clinton, and Parker's teammate Greg Warren (Pittsburgh's long snapper) is from Southern Wayne High School just south of Goldsboro. Goldsboro High School is where David Thornton (linebacker for Colts and now Titans) played. Washington produced Walter Rasby (Redskins, Panthers, Saints, Steelers), and fellow tight end Algae Crumpler (Falcons) was born in Greenville before playing his high school football in Wilmington. Vaughn Johnson (Saints) was born and raised in Morehead City and graduated from West Carteret High School, while Levar Fisher (Cardinals) came out of East Carteret High School.  Yancey Thigpin (Steelers & Titans) matriculated at Tarboro High School

I am sure I missed a few, and the list will grow over the next few years.  Talented players like ECU's Eric Graham (Richlands), and Central Michigan's Damien Linson (Plymouth) will certainly get good looks after their senior years. And more players like Andre Brown (Greenville), and Trimaine Goddard (Robersonville) have shown flashes of brilliance in college that could make them some good money in the future.

It makes me feel lucky to live in Eastern North Carolina and watch the talent blossom. Is it football season yet?.
Brian North