First Buccaneer -- Pate's brother recalls memorable moment
By Kenneth Fine
Published in Sports on August 7, 2011 1:50 AM
Ed Casey closes his eyes and reaches back more than 60 years -- searching through an 87-year-old memory for the details associated with a football game that made history.
But he comes up short when asked who his alma mater was playing that day.
He has no idea who won.
Not a single down plays out in his mind.
All he knows for sure is that it was 1948 -- that shortly after the game began, he and the rest of the East Carolina faithful on hand would witness the birth of a campus icon.
"The game got going and all of a sudden, a guy walks out on the field dressed like a pirate," he said. "He's waving a sword and everybody's cheering."
For a moment, Casey was among those searching for the true identity of the young man underneath the eye patch, bandana, sash and freshly-painted mustache.
But after further review, it became all too clear that the person curiously missing from his side at kickoff had not decided to skip the game after all.
"It took me a second to recognize him," Casey said. "But as I looked at him, I was like, 'Woah. That's my brother. That's Paul.'"
The third of seven children, Paul was known for his enthusiasm -- for his unrelenting commitment to whichever cause he fancied.
He showed it at 16, when, with his two older brothers already serving their country, "he begged and threatened to run away ... just gave our parents a fit until they signed for him to go into the military," his sister, Joyce Pate, said.
And he carried it with him, as a member of the Navy, to the Pacific during World War II.
So it was not all that hard for Casey to believe that he would bring the same passion to the sidelines.
"That's just the kind of guy he was, I guess," he said.
Casey has plenty of other memories associated with East Carolina football.
He hasn't missed a home game since 1955 -- and attended many others long before College Stadium was built in 1949.
"When I was in school ... they played wherever they could, really," he said. "Every high school had better facilities than we did."
And he could tell you about the first time the Pirates took to the field inside their current home, Ficklen Stadium.
"I've seen it unreal grow," Casey said.
He relives the experience of watching Pittsburgh's team fall to his beloved purple and gold and smiles.
"That was the greatest game I've ever seen," he said.
And he recounts, with pride, the moments when he and other World War II veterans helped their players make ends meet.
"When I was in school, the veterans clubs were the first ones to raise money for athletics. They didn't have any money coming in, so we literally paid the players themselves," Casey said. "If we thought one was a really good player, we gave him $75. The next guy was $50. We literally gave them the money. We just did it."
But the memory he covets far more than any other was ingrained in his mind on that day back in 1948.
And while no official declaration, to his knowledge, has ever been made about the birth of East Carolina's mascot, a picture in the school's 1949 yearbook, the TECOAN, tells the story.
The image is simple -- a young man holding a sword and wearing a bandana, eye patch, sash and freshly-painted mustache.
Above it is written only, "Pirate."
Casey, though, will always remember him as Paul -- a man filled with a passion he took around the world before bringing it home to eastern North Carolina.
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