Ok…this may sound absolutely nuts, but I have been thinking about this a lot. Having talked to every player that has come into the doors since Coach Ruffin McNeill arrived, I am more convinced than ever that at least on the recruiting front, the ECU head man is onto something. He engenders immense loyalty among players. The kids (and the all important mommas at home) gravitate to this man. So, not only is the talent level creeping up, so is the intensity in which these boys buy-in to the program. That intensity is showing on the field. In short, I think the program is really in a growth mode in terms of elevation of play and the ability to start “re-loading” rather than rebuilding every few years.
With this in mind, maybe it is time to kick it all up a level.
I cannot remember a time when ECU was in position to really tout itself like this moment. Even with Chris Johnson in the fold, he was more of a late find by the NFL. We all knew what he had, but outside of Greenville…meh, not so much.
On the cusp of the 2014-15 season, we have on our roster, legitimately, two All-America candidates. TWO…QB Shane Carden and WR Justin Hardy. And, in Carden, we have what should be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Being on the outside looking in at the so-called Power 5 conferences, having a true Heisman candidate and making the world aware of him are two very different things.
So, I propose our Athletics Department bite the bullet and mount a massive Carden for Heisman campaign. Look, Oregon spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 on its “Joey Heisman” campaign in 2001 for outstanding QB Joey Harrington. At the time, Harrington was leading Oregon to some 25 wins out of 28 games (something like that), which was getting the Pac 12 school some notice. But not the amount of press that FOLLOWED the Heisman campaign. Oregon went from “up and comer” to the premier destination for much of the talent in the west. They “blew up” if you will into the crazy-clad, fast-paced, top-5 program they have been for some time now.
Back to ECU, in Carden you have a guy who truly embodies the Heisman mission, why not tout him to the extent possible. Sure, there will be detractors…fear instills that in those who want to keep the status quo. Why not be in people’s faces about it some. Why not a 10-story likeness near Madison Square Garden? Why not billboards and electronic media blasts, heralding the most likeable Heisman candidate in years. Not a guy with rolled up 20s in a bar bathroom…not a guy with suspect values and perhaps too frisky hands…just a good ‘ole All-American kid from a wholesome state like Texas – which also provides a credible backdrop for a storied football youth. He is poised. Loves his team. Puts in the time to promote the Pirates everywhere he goes. It seems a scripted story that is also, by-the-by, true. Instead of a the all-me moniker of Johnny Football, what about the team-oriented, team first moniker of Captain Carden…a moniker that isn’t bestowed from the outside in, but rather from the inside out.
The kid is on every possible post-season award list, so there is low-level awareness which is needed (here he is listed as a top-10 Heisman candidate among seniors)…let’s just kick it up to the stratosphere some. WHY NOT?
If he tanks…which he will not…but if he does, so what? He has earned the right already to be in the big discussion. In the new league, he will have national TV exposure which might grow in ratings if there was a campaign out there. People might tune in “just to see.”
I really believe now is the time for us to spend some of our money on putting the message out. Not only for Carden for Heisman, but also for All-America and for Hardy as well…
Hopefully our future will provide several more of these types of players, but for now, the iron is hot…we should strike it now.
IMO, it would be money well spent with tangible returns.