A look back at East Tennessee State Football
A look back at East Tennessee State Football
Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The East Tennessee State football team played their last game on Nov. 22, 2003 against The Citadel. It was a game that was typical of the Buccaneer football team, not giving up until the final second was off the clock, as Jonathan Godfrey split the uprights with a 22-yard field goal, giving the Bucs an emotional 16-13 victory. It was a fitting end for the program that won 341 games over 80 seasons and provided ETSU fans with countless memories throughout the years.


Buccaneer fans will remember the great teams -- the 1969 ETSU team that went 10-0-1 and defeated a Terry Bradshaw-led Louisiana Tech squad, 34-14, in the Grantland Rice Bowl in Baton Rouge, La. The 1996 team that went 10-3 and advanced to the Division I-AA quarterfinals after defeating Villanova, 35-29, in a first-round playoff game in Memorial Center.


Several record-breaking players have also called East Tennessee State home. Quarterback Todd Wells is the Southern Conference all-time total offense leader with 8,711 yards while one of his featured receivers, B.J. Adigun, was the 1997 SoCon Male Athlete of the Year and ranked second nationally in receptions. Adigun hauled in a school-record 172 passes for 2,802 yards and 26 touchdowns from 1994-97, both also ETSU records.


Stellar tailback Brandon Walker dazzled the Buccaneer faithful, rushing for an ETSU-record 4,095 yards from 1996-99 while quarterback Greg Ryan holds the ETSU passing yardage mark, throwing for 8,376 yards from 1993-96.


Great defense was always a staple of Buccaneer football, making the opposing offense struggle for every yard. Linebacker Mario Hankerson was a 1997 All-America selection and Southern Conference Player of the Year after recording 135 tackles. Hankerson also holds the ETSU career record with 452 tackles while Mike K. Smith holds the single-season mark with an amazing 186 stops in 1981.


James Russell (1993-96) was also one of the best players in ETSU history, holding the career records for tackles for loss (63) and sacks (32.5).


Buccaneers have also made their mark in the pros, with no fewer than nine players competing in the National Football League in the last decade. Earl Ferrell played for the Cardinals for four seasons in the mid 80's while Thane Gash played for the Browns and 49ers for five seasons during the late 80's and early 90's. Former Buc tight end Pedro Edison was a member of the Ravens' Super Bowl squad in 2000.


Cornerback Donnie Abraham has arguably had the best professional career of any former ETSU athlete, currently in his ninth season in the NFL. Coming into the 2004 season, Abraham has made 421 tackles and 36 interceptions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets. Donnie intercepted a career-high seven passes in 1999 and 2000 and started the Pro Bowl following the 2000 season.


The road to the next level would have been tougher without the guidance of some of the top coaches in SoCon history. Star Wood (1952-53, 55-65) holds the ETSU record with 64 victories, followed by Gene McMurray (1932-41, 46) with 51. More recently, Mike Cavan (1992-96) won 30 games over five seasons while Paul Hamilton (1997-2003) earned 38 victories over the final seven years of the program.


This section of www.ETSUBucs.com is a tribute to the ETSU football team, including stats and stories from the final few seasons, game audio from the 2003 campaign and the Buccaneer record book.