Inside the Football Program
Like Never Before

by Troy Dreyfus

A couple weeks ago Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Golden asked Ellerbe and me if we would like to go through preseason training with this year’s team.  He knows we talk a lot about the program, and felt if we had an “inside” perspective we might be able to let fans know just what is going on in the Murphy Center this summer.

“We” (Ellerbe and I) turned into "I".  Many friends and listeners began to question my sanity.  After all, why would a guy like me have any business being on a field with true athletes?  Although I am getting closer and closer to middle age, and am not the physical specimen I used to be, hell, whom am I kidding?? I am severely out of shape, but I felt this was an opportunity I could not pass up.  I guess that’s the point, not only did I have a once-in-lifetime chance to be on the team for a day…. but it was a chance to see if I could complete the two-hour workout without quitting, and prove to myself and others that maybe, just maybe, I still had it!

Well, let me first say this was no "fantasy camp", nor was it some type of "walk-through".  This was the real deal. When they lifted, I lifted (maybe not as much weight), when they ran, I ran (maybe not as fast).  If it happened to the team, it happened to me.

The workout…or shall I say "death march" began at 2 p.m. sharp on Thursday, July 14, 2005. The team assembled in the lobby of the Murphy Center.  Just to be safe I got there early! The training session lasted two hours. I began to make friends with some of our special teams players who clued me in on what was about to happen. Oh well, too late to turn back now.

We sprint through the stadium and then its hurdles, and back to the Murphy center.  I became winded and realized this was only the warm-up…uh-oh. This ain't lookin' so good.

We then hit the field turf in the Murphy Center for sit-ups and calisthenics.  Sounds easy, but after a mouth full of field turf pellets, I can assure you this also takes a toll.

We then break up into groups for strength training. Somehow I get put with the linemen. I thought it would be good to hang with these guys for the running/agility session. I might be able to keep up with them, but that is a long way away. First, it’s lifting. The squats I could only do with the help of my "teammates". Thank goodness they where there to spot me.  ECU lineman Josh Coffman was becoming a good friend at this point.

The worse thing about it all was no one, and I mean no, one can rest, and when I say rest, I mean you can't even bend over. Don't even think about takin' a knee.  You have to stand straight the whole time no matter how exhausted you are. That sounds easy, but that became the toughest part. I began to wonder how I could start to just "blend in" so they did not notice me. The team is in their gray shirts and I stand out like a neon sign with my white Pirate Radio 1250 T-shirt.

I begin to feel light headed and wonder why I ate lunch earlier. I saw Coach Shank earlier and he showed me where the big yellow trash can was if I needed it.  He said I would not be the first to use it, and asked me to make sure I hit it and not the floor, if necessary. I started thinking of that trash can.  Then someone said I looked more pale than normal. I looked at the clock and we had only been at it 20 minutes…oh boy… this might have been a big mistake!

About that time some of the players begin to rally and encourage me to keep it up. We were lifting in a circuit style. I began to get my second wind, and felt I couldn’t let these guys or myself down by quitting. At this point the team begins to take me on as their "project" and they want me to make it all the way with them.

Finally the weight training comes to end.  one hour of lifting, no breaks! Not one! Now it's time to do the running.  We leave the Murphy Center and it is the hottest humidity I have ever felt.  It had just rained and it felt like a 100-degree steam bath. Is there no mercy!??  I follow my "teammates" to the locker room. They tell me to grab some water and enjoy the ten-minute break before the running drills. The guys let me borrow some cleats so I don’t slip on the grass; "very nice", I thought. I rest on the couch in the locker room and then it's time to go. My legs don't move so quickly and my arms feel like Jello.

We break up into groups to do the agility drills, but first more warm-ups. Man, these warm-ups are killin' me! I’m at a full sprint just to keep up.  I forget to touch the line so I have to do the drill again!  I'm with the linemen, and I am struggling to keep up with guys that weigh twice as much as I do. The guys are really supportive now, because if I don't do it right, they might have to do it again…man, this is pressure!

I look over towards the east and I see dark clouds.  I think, God please let it storm, but then I find out, if it rains, we go nowhere until we are done. Damn, so much for an intervention from a higher power! But the weather does turn weird. The wind picks up out of nowhere, the sky turns dark, and it starts to pour rain.  Coach Golden yells “this is spirit of Blackbeard, baby!!!!”  The team goes nuts, and guys are fired up!  This was the most beautiful rain I have ever seen, and the temperature drops twenty degrees.

Towards the end, the guys begin to hoot and holler.  Dare I say this was becoming fun? We kept huddling up and yelling different chants. These guys were pumped up!!! Richard Koonce ended the practice as we all huddled together and began an ECU chant that you would have thought was started by the cheerleading squad. These guys have some spirit!!

And then, it was over.  Much to the amazement of the coaches, players, and myself, I actually made it.  I made it through the two-hour ordeal without quitting!  Even ECU Hall of Famer, and Super Bowl Champion, George Koonce told me he would not want to go through that type of practice again… especially at our age!

Two days later, Allen Thomas comments to me that I am walking like Fred Sanford from the Sanford and Son TV show.  Sure, it has taken me a few days to get back to “normal”, but I will always remember how hard our players worked in the summer of 2005. 

I can’t tell you how many wins we will have this season, but from what I witnessed, these guys are doing what it takes to turn this program around.  And believe me, I am not saying this as somebody that heard about them, or watched them work.  I lived it with them.  I had a lot of respect for them before; now I have even more.  The seeds that are being planted in the dog days of summer will pay off big in the fall!

Troy Dreyfus