While lacrosse may be my favorite sport, football has always had a special place in my heart (my Dad was quarterback at Durham High School back in the day). No matter how many times you hit a guy, sportsmanship and gamesmanship is put on display because there are lessons to be taught. Two lessons that I learned were that football is just a game and life is bigger than just that moment. From the outside looking in, you might just see the violence and describe the game as barbaric, but you have to realize that those guys are humans and that they feel emotions too. There are often times where I see football players shaking hands or embracing each other after one has usually made a good hit on the other, and that’s the beauty of the sport. Let’s take a look at my four area coaches (SAU, Shaw, NCCU, ECU) and learn a little bit more about them and their respective programs.
— Lawrence Davis
Lawrence Davis (LD): What is one major thing you have learned from Coach Cutcliffe that has helped you in your first months as a head coach?
Scottie Montgomery (SM): Detail and organization…you say one thing but they go together. He was just a very organized person and very detailed inside of his organization. That would be the one thing I would say Coach has been very helpful with for me. We always worked on the schedule and we are always on an itinerary, every day. It is not like we have a day where we don’t plan to get work done and actually get that work done. So that’s what I have learned from him.
LD: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome so far as a new head coach?
SM: The first thing you realize as a head coach is that you finally don’t coach a position and that you get lonely. When I end the team meetings and everybody gets up and goes in to their position rooms, I get really lonely because I miss getting to coach the quarterbacks and having your own room. Now, I guess the building is my room now so that would be the one thing that I have had to overcome.
LD: How is your quarterback competition coming along? Is Phil Nelson a clear favorite?
SM: I have to say [Nelson] was pretty good when the first day of practice started. So for us to say he’s getting better, he’s this, or he is getting the ball out in 2.65 seconds, or whatever, he was already a good football player when we got him. He has progressed in the offense, he understands the offense, and he is doing a much better job of understanding his personnel. He has been a lot more polished, the more and more practice he gets, the more polished he is becoming.
LD: Conditioning and discipline are always key points for any team, why will it be important to your Pirates?
SM: Physical conditioning precedes anything else; a man that is tired will become a coward a lot quicker. Fatigue will make a coward out of us all. So as far as conditioning, we have to be able to play in the first, second, third, and fourth quarter and then like we’ve done in past places I have coached, three and four overtimes are sometimes needed to win. Conditioning in the fourth quarter will be among the top of my list this year. Usually, we like to say conditioning and discipline together like one and two. Talking about discipline, discipline is a way of life. It does not start or stop when you enter or exit the building. Your discipline has to be on point and discipline helps us coach and teach winning as a value, rather than trying to just walk on a football field and win a game. So with discipline, that will always be a key point for us and will be very important moving forward.
LD: On defense, how do you replace leaders like CB Josh Hawkins, LB Montese Overton, and LB Zeke Biggers (NFL) on the field?
SM: I love those guys, man! Whenever they are in town, I get a chance to watch them work. So the way we plan on replacing them is just by committee. I think we have some great talent but young talent, so I am hesitant to give them too much praise at this point in time. They have to suit up, go to war, and battle like guys like Josh, Montese, and Zeke. They have not done that yet but we just have to go do that. We believe we have the talent at our outside linebacker position, at the [inside] linebacker position, and in our secondary to do just that. We have been blessed with our recruiting to be able to put a couple of guys out there that people may not necessarily know about right now. We plan on trying to do it by committee. Those have been three hard guys to replace and I would love for them to hear me say thank you so much for all that they have done and given to the program.
LD: How important is special teams in a football game? How important is it that you have very key guys (Gregory – P, Plowman – K, and Johnson – KR) coming back to make an impact on special teams?
SM: Well I can tell you how important special teams are in a game. It is the only one play in football that can be an entire series. You can take one play and it can change an entire game, one play. People will tell me that you can do it several ways, but you tell me of a play that averages 45 yards per play and I will say wow, that’s what a punt could do as well. I will also say that it is important to us here at East Carolina. We spend one practice of about an hour and a half to go over every single situation that may occur on special teams. A lot of people do not do that, but how in the world can you be prepared for every situation if you do not give it the same amount of time as you give to your offense and defense? So it is a very important part of the game. Field position is something that people will talk about a lot, but it is much more than just field position. It is great to have Davis [Plowman] back; it is always good going to a team where their specialists are coming back. You are not worrying or wondering things. We have had competitions but those guys have earned their roles and we are happy to have them back to make an impact on special teams. We are not guessing on what they are going to do because they have had time spent in the stadium. I just want for those guys [punter Worth Gregory & kicker Davis Plowman] whenever they hit a stadium, no matter which stadium, that we get the same product every time; that’s excellent work always. It is like ordering a number one meal. Everywhere in the country, you can go and order a number one meal and you will know what that is, that is how I would like to be with my specialist.
LD: What has been the most rewarding moment in your coaching career?
SM: Wow, there has been a lot. The biggest, most rewarding moment is when a kid I coached graduates, has kids and/or is married, and he comes back and we get a chance to sit in my house or in my office and they are sitting there, bouncing their two year-old on his lap, and the wife is sitting beside them, that they are God-fearing men, they have done things the right way during their career and they are trying to raise a child. They will say something to their child that I have said to them, that had been passed to me, that a coach said to me to help my life. That HAS to be the most rewarding moment in my coaching career, by far.