How ECU's 70-41 win brought ex-UNC OL to Greenville
Will Dancy transferred from UNC to ECU last spring
Will Dancy transferred from UNC to ECU last spring
GREENVILLE — Sept. 20, 2014 is a date most North Carolina football coaches, players and fans would just as soon forget.
Will Dancy, on the other hand, could never seem to get it out of his mind.
It’s not the embarrassment of the 70-41 drubbing his Tar Heels absorbed at the hands of East Carolina that day that made such a lasting impression on the hulking offensive lineman. It was more the passion and energy he felt from the home crowd at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
That atmosphere played a major role in Dancy’s decision to join the Pirates when he decided to transfer away from UNC last spring.
“I was on the losing end, but it was a great environment,” Dancy said. “It’s one of the reasons that when I was looking for a school, I knew to contact ECU. I wanted to play in that environment. I’m really excited about that. It’s been a very smooth transition for me.”
A 6-foot-4, 310-pound graduate student, Dancy played in 23 games — including two starts — during his three years with the Tar Heels. Although he missed the entire 2015 season with a torn left Achilles, he was in line to earn a starting right guard position vacated by All-American Landon Turner.
He even went through spring practice in Chapel Hill.But shortly after playing in UNC’s annual spring game, the now-fully recovered lineman unexpectedly announced his decision to leave the program. Because he earned his undergraduate degree in exercise and sport science following the first session of summer school, he is eligible to play his final college season without sitting out a year under NCAA rules.
Dancy was originally reported to be headed to Missouri. Instead he chose to stay closer to home so that his parents, who live in Graham, could continue to see him play.
“It’s a great university at North Carolina and I have a degree from there, but it just wasn’t a good fit for me there,” said the former Southern Alamance High star, who began his career at Eastern Arizona Junior College. “I really can’t put my finger on why. I just love every day being here, being with the guys. I feel like I really belong here. I haven’t felt like that in four years.”
It didn’t take Dancy long to adjust to his new surroundings. Despite his late arrival, he immediately moved into the starting right guard position for the Pirates’ opening game against Western Carolina.
“The verbiage and vernacular was a little bit of a hurdle and obstacle for him, but once he got it he was pretty much ready to go,” rookie ECU coach Scottie Montgomery said. “Then he had to gel with his teammates.
“A lot of people think that with that offensive line it’s all physical, but football is an emotional game, too. So you have to understand the balance between the physical, mental and emotional. It took us a few minutes to get him there, but we’re happy with where he is.”
A big reason why he was able to come so far so fast is that he wasn’t the only one learning a new system and new terminology thanks to the Pirates’ coaching change. It also helped to have a veteran such as third-year starting center J.T. Boyd around to help show him the ropes. The two offensive linemen roomed together after Dancy arrived at ECU for the second session of summer school.
Not that Dancy needed a lot of guidance.
“Will has a good amount of football IQ. He knows when the stunts and blitzes are coming because he played in the ACC,” Boyd said. “Having him come over here and helping me out in the interior, knowing he’s been there before, helps out tremendously.
“When he first got here, he was in with me and (offensive line coach Geep) Wade asking questions every day. He really cared about learning the offense so he could come in and be able to contribute.”
Though his most important contribution will be on the field, Dancy is also doing what he can to help solidify the future of his newly adopted program by serving as a sort of big brother to the Pirates’ incoming freshmen linemen.
It’s a role he’s perfectly situated to handle. And not just because he hopes to become a coach after his playing days are through.
“I came in with the freshmen, so I’m in their section of the locker room,” Dancy said. “Since I’m with them instead of the upperclassmen, I try to help them out as much as I can. I like that, because even though I have a lot more experience than them, I don’t have to worry about being the leader because that’s J.T.’s job. That frees me up to be a mentor to the younger guys.”
As much as Dancy already feels at home at ECU, he admits that it’s still a little strange looking down and realizing he’s wearing purple and gold instead of the distinctive light blue he once wore with the Pirates’ UNC system rival.
The good news for everyone concerned is that while ECU has upcoming games against ACC opponents N.C. State and Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels aren’t on this year’s schedule.
“I still have a lot of friends there,” Dancy said, singling out fellow guard Caleb Peterson. “I told those guys to look for me when they break down film of us against State and Tech.”One game those old teammates won’t have to relive is one that Dancy still can’t get off his mind, only for a different reason now that he’s playing for the other side.
“It’s never really over,” he said of the events of Sept. 20, 2014. “Everyone I meet, when I tell them where I came from, they’re like ‘hey, did you play when we ...
“I just stop them right there because I know what’s coming next. I played a good amount in that game. It’s kind of embarrassing to have been a part of it, but at the same time it’s part of the game. Like I said, the atmosphere was so great that it made me want to come here. I can’t wait to be a part of it.”