East Carolina University football head coach Mike Houston wrote a letter addressing the outpouring of support from ECU fans in his time of need. Houston’s father passed away on Tuesday, Sept. 3., just days before ECU played its first home game of the season against Gardner-Webb University.
On behalf of my entire family, I wanted to send a special Thank You for the outpouring of support you displayed with the loss of my father last week. So many of you – fans, donors, student-athletes, coaches, staff, administrators – reached out to me last week and offered your condolences. It truly meant so much to our family.
Burying my father was the toughest day of my life. So many different emotions and thoughts ran through my head, but I found solace in knowing he was proud of me. Making my father proud meant everything to me. All the lessons he imparted on me guide me daily.
When I accepted the East Carolina head coaching job in December, my father became passionate about the Pirates. Our phone calls would consist of him asking me about our program, the fan base and the community. He read everything he could online and sometimes I think he knew more than me about our team. I made a final visit to see him last week in my hometown of Franklin, North Carolina and he was wearing his East Carolina football shirt. Not many words were necessary, it was just a special time between father and son.
My heart was broken when I received the news the following day. You can never prepare yourself for the loss of a parent even though I knew the end was near. He's at peace now and in a special place. I really wish he could have witnessed a game in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. He would have loved to hear the Purple and Gold chants, the cannon going off after every Pirate score, and watching a special group of young men who care deeply about our program.
I get chills thinking about running on the field for my first home game as head coach of the East Carolina Pirates and seeing and hearing the support for our football team. I had so many thoughts going through my head throughout the evening, my family in Franklin, my wife who has been a rock for our kids, and 30,000-plus fans who welcomed my family with open arms.
Losing a loved one is a process where you grieve while also having flashbacks of certain memories and moments that shaped you. My beloved mother has dedicated her time recently to caring for my father, handling his every need, and making sure his final days were spent in comfort. Next week will be another emotional time for our family as my mother will get to experience Pirate Nation when we host William & Mary. It will mark her first game in person since 2012.
From the beginning, I have realized what a privilege it is to lead this football program. It truly is the opportunity of a lifetime with a group of people who support their own through the victories and the challenges. This is a special community and I know it's where I'm supposed to be.