Ed Emory grew up with a speech defect so severe, he recalls now, "I couldn't say 'twenty' until I was 22." All through school he was the big, silent, frustrated kid who sat in the corner. About the only place where he didn't feel ashamed was on the football field; in 1959 he made himself into a 210-pound Little All-America lineman for East Carolina College.
Since then, Emory and his alma mater have done some serious achieving. East Carolina gained university status in 1967 and established a medical school in 1979. The next year, when the school ambitiously decided to play more big-time football games, it found someone just as ambitious to be its coach—a now loquacious Emory.
His tenure with the Pirates, much like his speech, has been marked by relentless work and steady improvement. With a 24-11 victory over Temple at Philadelphia's Franklin Field on Saturday, East Carolina ran its record to 5-1, firmed up its burgeoning reputation as one of the top independents in the country and moved closer to getting its first postseason berth since 1978, when it beat up on enough Marshalls and William & Marys to go to the Independence Bowl.
"They don't have a lot of depth, but they have more great players on their squad than any team we've faced this year," said Temple Coach Bruce Arians after the loss. And, remember, the Owls have played Pittsburgh, Penn State and Boston College this season.
Arians had reason to be particularly impressed by Pirate Free Safety Clint Harris, an honorable-mention All-America last year, who returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown, and Wide Receiver Henry Williams, the NCAA's leading kickoff returner, who had a 55-yard punt return for a TD. Harris and Williams both run the 40 in less than 4.3 seconds.
Even though East Carolina was a solid 7-4 last year, it raised some eyebrows in the first game of 1983 when it led highly regarded Florida State most of the way before losing 47-46. Since then, the Pirates have beaten North Carolina State, Murray State, Missouri and Southwest Louisiana, along with Temple, en route to the SI Top 20.
A team with two guys named Quick—Norman and Greg—and one named Speed—Darrell—should be fast, and East Carolina's Option-I offense, led by Quarterback Kevin Ingram, looks as if it could be programmed into a video game. The Pirates' most impressive speed is on the offensive and defensive lines, where every starter can break 5.0 in the 40, a collective feat that is rare even in pro football.
Meshing that speed with strength, East Carolina wins most of its wars in the trenches. Epitomizing the combination is senior Offensive Guard Terry Long, an Outland Trophy candidate whom the Pirates bill as the strongest college football player in the nation. Long shocked everyone in March when he won the North Carolina Powerlifting Championships with a combined 2,203 pounds, the third-highest total ever lifted. Long, who was competing in a powerlifting meet for the first time, had a 501-pound bench press, a squat of 837 pounds and an 865-pound dead lift. At 6 feet, 280 pounds, he also has 4.8 speed and a 34-inch vertical leap. "You just don't see good college defensive linemen getting put on their backs or driven five yards off the line of scrimmage," says Pirate Offensive Coordinator Art Baker. "But that's what Terry does to people."
Emory, who also weighs about 280, is building his Pirates on such pillars. In 1980 he succeeded Pat Dye, now the coach at Auburn, who was 48-18-1 in six seasons at East Carolina. Emory went through a rocky 4-7 that first year but is now 21-18 overall, and there's good reason to believe the best is yet to come.
A native of Lancaster, S.C., the 45-year-old Emory expels his drawl in a succession of quick, intense bursts. He even named the youngest of his six children Battle; "It fits my family's image," he says. Beginning in 1960, he coached North Carolina high school teams for 13 years, amassing an 80-12-4 record before serving as an assistant at Clemson, Duke and Georgia Tech.