East Carolina’s football team shared in a great moment following its 28-3 win over Temple this past Saturday, as head coach Mike Houston shared the news that freshman walk-on nose tackle Elijah Morris would be placed on scholarship in the months to come. That announcement, along with the jubilation of winning, led to teammates mobbing Morris in celebration before singing the fight song as a unit.
Seeing a walk-on succeed and rise to the level of prominent play like Morris has is nothing new for East Carolina. The Pirates have made a living over the years on taking unheralded players and turning them into major contributors. There’s no bigger example than Justin Hardy, who set the NCAA all-time catches mark before being drafted in the NFL after a stellar career at ECU.
Morris isn’t the first player on ECU’s roster to earn a scholarship after joining the program. And he certainly won’t be the last. As a refresher, we take you through the other former walk-on players who have worked their way up to scholarship status below that are on the Pirates’ current football team.
WR TYLER SNEAD
Snead is listed at 5-foot-7, 169 pounds, but he may not be quite that tall. Nonetheless, he’s arguably got the biggest heart of any player on the entire field and he proves he’s just as good as anyone each week out. Snead flashed on the scene as a true freshman in 2018, making 15 receptions for 236 yards and four scores while maintaining his redshirt status. Still, the production was enough to earn him a scholarship, which he was placed on heading into his redshirt freshman season. It was the second half of last season when Snead truly came into his own.
Not only did Snead return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against USF, but he also racked up 51 catches in the last five games alone, including a 19-catch performance at SMU where he totaled 240 receiving yards and three scores. He finished the season with 66 catches for 759 yards. Snead has picked up right where he left off as a sophomore, leading the Pirates with 46 catches for 432 yards and four scores through eight games. Snead also returned a kickoff 95 yards to the house against Temple, registering special teams touchdowns on returns in back-to-back years.
OL FERNANDO FRYE
Frye has quite the story. Unlike others on this list, he was not an invited walk-on. He basically just showed up at ECU to follow a friend to school and ended up trying out for the team after previously playing at Mercyhurst, a Division II school in Pennsylvania. But what a find Frye has turned out to be. After participating on the scout team early in his career, Frye has become a major contributor the last three seasons. He started the majority of last season at left guard before becoming the team’s full-time starter at center in 2020.
WR CAM BURNETTE
Burnette was one of two players placed on scholarship just before the start of this season. The South Carolina native played a fairly big role at Furman his first two years of college before leaving that program and enrolling at ECU as a preferred walk-on. He sat out the 2019 season but showed flashes and did well on the scout team before piecing together a strong preseason camp. That earned him a spot on the depth chart, a special teams role, and a scholarship. Burnette has made three catches for 50 yards in eight games this season. He will enter next season still with two years of eligibility remaining.
WR JONATHAN JOHNSON
Johnson has been a special teams stalwart since arriving in Greenville and that earned him a scholarship. He originally came as a walk-on transfer from Morgan State, where he previously ran track. He utilized that speed to earn a spot as a gunner on special teams for the Pirates. He’s led the team in special teams snaps the last two seasons and was placed on scholarship during the 2019 preseason as a result. Johnson, a senior, has also added two receptions thus far in his career.
OLB DRE TERRY
Terry started his college career as a solid contributor at Chowan, but he wanted to take a shot at major FBS football. That led him to ECU, where he landed prior to the 2019 season. After redshirting last season, Terry started to come into his own this offseason. He earned a spot on the depth chart at ‘rush’ outside linebacker and a special teams role. Terry and Burnette were both placed on scholarship the same day following a preseason practice in 2020. The 6-foot-1, 248-pound junior has appeared in eight games this season and has been officially credited with two tackles.