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East Carolina’s Britt Johnson Has and Always Will Be a Pirate at Heart
Since October 2003, East Carolina senior snapper Britt Johnson has had the opportunity to do something everyone should have the chance to do at some point in their life, live their dream. Johnson’s dream, as long as he can remember, was to be a football player at East Carolina University.
“I’ve been an East Carolina pirate for as long as I can remember. I’m 22 right now, so I guess technically I’ve been one for about 19 years. After being born into a family so strong from East Carolina, I didn’t have a choice and I’m so glad I didn’t.”
Johnson’s parents Don and Wanda, both ECU graduates, were taking their son to ball games in Greenville long before he realized what was going on. Don was not only an ECU alumnus, but he had also been a manager during Pat Dye’s hugely successful era.
The Johnsons live in Rocky Mount, just a 45-minute drive from Greenville. It has been a convenient place to call home over the years with so many trips the family has made to the Emerald City. Britt loves his hometown, which he calls “The Rock”, but he also realizes how much living so close to Greenville has benefited him in that his family has been able to attend his games.
His younger brothers, Will (19) and Grant (16), are both die-hard pirates, but they also pursue their own sporting dreams. Will is a baseball player at Barton College in Wilson, about 30 minutes from Greenville, while Grant plays several sports for the Rocky Mount Gryphons. However, despite some conflicts, they manage to get the most out of their older brother’s games. It means a lot to their “big brother” and it’s something he certainly doesn’t take for granted.
“It’s a great feeling on Saturday to look out into the stands and see my brothers Will and Grant decked out in their purple and gold and see them cheering and supporting me as I live my dream.”
Johnson also appreciates the presence of his grandparents at his games, but above all the support they have always offered him.
“It was also great to see all my grandparents at my games.”
Jack and Doril Henderson, her mother’s parents, never missed a game.
“Since I’ve been in the team, they haven’t missed a game and they’ve also made sure to join the Pirate Club. They are, without a doubt, die-hard Pirates.”
His father’s parents, Donald and Mildred Johnson, are equally supportive.
“They have supported me throughout my life and have followed all my sporting endeavors. I am extremely grateful to them.”
This proximity to East Carolina has seen the Rocky Mount native miss just three Pirates home football games since 1987. Britt’s earliest memories of attending an ECU game date back to that 1987 season.
“The first game I remember attending East Carolina was in 1987 when ECU played Florida State. The thing I remember the most is wanting to leave the game with 12 minutes left in the first quarter. My dad certainly didn’t let that happen and I’m glad he didn’t because I would never think of leaving a game early now.”
After graduating from Rocky Mount High School, the former Gryphon center and deep snapper knew he was going to attend East Carolina to pursue his lifelong dream of playing football for his beloved Pirates.
Due to his lack of height, the 5-foot-8, 223-pound Johnson knew his niche would be at deep snapper. After arriving at ECU, he came out twice for the team, but failed on each attempt. Frustrated, the diehard pirate considered giving up on his dream, but he knew he couldn’t give up because that’s not what pirates do.
On September 30, 2003, Johnson was attending East Carolina’s Tuesday night home game on ESPN against the Houston Cougars when he was offered an opportunity following an injury to the Pirates starting snapper.
“Brandon Howard, our long snapper, was injured that night,” Johnson recalled. “We saw him limp off the pitch and he didn’t come back. After the game I went to the locker room and he told me he had torn his ACL.”
“A few days later I went to Coach McManus’ office. He was the special teams coach at the time, but he wasn’t in his office, so I kinda swallowed my saliva and I was like, “Well, I have to go to the big dog. So I went to John Thompson’s office and when I walked in, I started introducing myself and he was like, ‘Britt, I know already who you are. We were about to call you.”
“He told me to show up to training the next day ready to fall for him. I went there and fell for it and ended up getting dressed for the rest of the season. I Been part of the team ever since.”
Although Johnson has achieved his goal of making the team at ECU, his experience in the purple and gold might seem somewhat incomplete if he never takes to the field to play in a blink of an eye. eye?
“Not a chance. I would certainly love to be able to succeed next year as a senior if I have the chance, but if not, I can always walk away with my head held high knowing that I have achieved my childhood dream. . It’s just great to be an East Carolina pirate.”
With Johnson’s senior season on the horizon, he thought back to his fondest memory as a member of the East Carolina football team.
“Without a doubt, my favorite memory as a player was walking into the locker room before the Carolina game and seeing my jersey and pants sitting there in my locker, knowing I was about to putting on the jersey I had dreamed of wearing my Putting on the jersey, running through the smoke tunnel and hearing 46,000 fans screaming at the top of their voices was a feeling I had never felt in my life.
He can’t wait to experience the same feeling six more times before his playing days are over.
As a lifelong and hardcore pirate, Johnson is bound to have fond pirate memories – games, seasons, players – in addition to his days on the team.
“My favorite memory as a fan, by far, was living through the entire 1991 season and being able to watch the Peach Bowl comeback against NC State.”
“My favorite ECU player would have to be Jeff Blake. He’s the first quarterback I really remember seeing in his entire career. The quarterback who led ECU to the promised land in 1991!”
While at East Carolina, not only was he able to live out his lifelong dream of being part of the pirate football team, but he also made many great friends through football that he will never forget. never.
“My most missed memory will probably be not seeing the guys I’ve seen every day of my life for the past four years. Our friendships will last forever, but it just won’t be the same. The feeling of you on game day knowing you’re about to go into battle with your brothers, the feeling of knowing you’re ready to die for those guys on the pitch every Saturday!”
As Johnson’s time as a pirate player draws to a close, he spoke about the future of the East Carolina program under Skip Holtz.
“We’re a program on the rise,” Johnson said. “Coach Holtz is awesome and he’s surrounded himself with as good a staff as any we’ve had here in East Carolina in a long time. Expect great things to start happening here. J just hope everyone gets on board and comes and gets on the boat with us. It’s gonna be a fun ride.
On November 11, 2006, East Carolina will host the Marshall Thundering Herd on senior day. One can only imagine the bittersweet thoughts that will go through Britt Johnson’s head as he storms into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the final time.
“It’s going to be a very sad day for me. It’s a day I’ve been dreading since I arrived at ECU. Knowing that it’s going to be the last game of my life is going to be very difficult. I’m probably going to cry and just be grateful for the opportunity the Lord has given me to be a part of this program. I’m going to kiss my mom, hug my dad, greet my family in the stands, and then go get ready to beat Marshall! I’ll also feel nice to know that this won’t technically be my last game at home as I anticipate we’re hosting the conference championship game!”
Unfortunately this dream, like all dreams, will have an end, but what a dream it was! Britt Johnson doesn’t want to be awake just yet, as he hopes the dream he’s living will end with his Pirates winning a bowling match.
When the dream ends, rest assured that this pirate will bleed purple and sweat gold until the day he dies.
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