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ECU

Four selected to ECU Athletics Hall of Fame

Posted July 18

Vonta Leach

— East Carolina University will induct four new members into its Athletics Hall of Fame on Sept. 19 at the Pete and Lynn Murphy Center. 

The Class of 2014 includes baseball record-setter Billy Best, outstanding linebacker Mitchell Cannon, All-Southern Conference running back Eddie Hicks and three-time Pro Bowl selection Vonta Leach.

The four members being inducted will be honored during special ceremonies surrounding the Pirates' football game with North Carolina on Sept. 20 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Since it was established in 1974, 148 former student-athletes, coaches and administrators have been elected to the ECU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Best began his association with the university as a freshman in 1977 under coach Monte Little, and helped the Pirates capture the Southern Conference regular season title and earn a trip to the NCAA regional championships. Best set the ECU single-season record for stolen bases with 16 in 1977 and is the only player in ECU history to lead in this category four consecutive years.

A year later, he became just the second player in school history to collect 50 hits in a season. He earned All-South Independent Team honors in 1980, helping ECU to another regional appearance and finished his ECU playing days setting the record for most career triples. Best spent five years (1985-89) as an assistant coach at ECU after spending five seasons in the Kansas City Royals minor league system.

During his three years as member of the Pirates’ football team under coach Clarence Statsavich, Cannon helped his team to three consecutive bowl victories beginning in 1963 with a win over Northeastern in the Eastern Bowl. He then led them to back-to-back Tangerine Bowl titles in 1964 and ’65, culminating in a 27-3 career record. In three bowl games, Cannon and his teammates surrendered a total of 19 points.

The 1965, ‘64 and ‘63 ECU defenses rank one, two and four respectively for fewest yards allowed per game in ECU football history. Cannon served as team captain in 1965 and received the team’s Most Outstanding Senior Award. The Raleigh News & Observer named him one of the five best linebackers in school history in 2011.

Hicks rushed for more than 2,100 yards during his four-year career playing for coach Pat Dye and completed his eligibility with the fifth-most rushing yards in school history. As a freshman in 1975, he scored three touchdowns to lead ECU to its first-ever win over North Carolina. A year later he was named all-conference after he rushed for 897 yards to steer ECU to the 1976 Southern Conference championship.

Hicks holds the school record for the longest rushing play (95 yards) in ECU history. As a senior and team captain in 1978, he helped the Pirates win the Independence Bowl and was named to the All-South Independent second-team as well as the Pirates’ Most Outstanding Offensive Player. The New York Giants selected him in the sixth round of the 1979 NFL Draft.

Leach began his collegiate career as a linebacker playing for coach Steve Logan, where he earned All-Conference USA Freshman Team honors in 2000, before switching to fullback midway through his junior campaign. As a fullback he paved the way for a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in 2002 and ’03, while rushing for 310 yards and five touchdowns himself. He served as team captain as a senior.

Leach was voted Offensive MVP of the 2004 Blue-Gray All-Star Game before signing as a free agent with the Green Bay Packers. He was named All-Pro in three consecutive seasons (2010, ’11, ’12) and was part of the Raven’s Super Bowl XLVII championship team. Leach was honored with the first Lifetime Achievement Award during the inaugural Goldspys Awards, created by the ECU Student Athletic Advisory Committee.

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