GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The Pirates return home this week to take on UConn for homecoming.
And one man is tasked with pumping up the crowd on game day.
“He’s awesome! Who else has a pirate, a real legitimate looking pirate, who runs out before the games,” asked Frank & Lynn Cox, Pirate fans.
Who else but ECU?
“Steve the Pirate is awesome,” one fan said. “There’s nothing like bringing that passion. And purple and passion they kind of go together.”
Passionate is one way to describe Steve Whetzel, better known by most fans as Steve the Pirate. A pirate’s life certainly isn’t foreign to him.
“I’m from Raleigh, and I’m with a group called the Shadow Players Stage Combat Group,” explained Steve Whetzel, ECU mascot. “We do live sword fighting shows, comedy sword fighting, from Canada down to Florida. I work full-time for a telecommunications company and in my spare time, my vacation time, is the time I spend traveling, doing our shows.”
His emergence as ECU’s live mascot almost happened by chance.
“They’re looking for a new pirate mascot,” continued Whetzel. “I thought, ok, I could probably do that. So, I went in, came up here to the marketing department, had on my costume and everything, did the whole pose with the sword and they said Ok I think you’ll do. I’ve been doing that since 2009. It’s my eighth season and I’m just loving every minute of it. There’s nothing like it.”
Pee Dee may be the official mascot at ECU, but many fans agree game days just wouldn’t be the same without Steve.
“It would certainly be different. Not as good,” said David Pate, Pirate fan. “I’m glad we have him.”
“Like NC State, it would probably stink,” another Pirate fan said.
“I went to NC State for a semester back in the early ’80s and, let me tell you something, there’s nothing like ECU though. It’s the best,” said Whetzel.
We won’t hold that semester at NC State against you, Steve.
“A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘I want your job!’ And I say, ‘Yeah you do because there’s nothing like it.’ I hear Purple Haze and I get pumped up,” said Whetzel. “It’s what the fans want and we’ve been voted one of the top entrances in college football so we must be doing something right. It’s one of those things I can hopefully grow into because pirates can get a little old and scraggly. Being my age, I think I can hang with it. As long as they want me here, I’m gonna do it.”
“No matter where you are, if you see a pirate or crossbones, you know it’s ECU,” exclaimed Melanie Boyette & Kim Hamman, Pirate fans.
“Greenville really is my second home,” said Whetzel. “I feel kind of sad when I have to leave. Driving here on 64 it’s like I’m coming home. I love it.”
Pirate Nation is more than happy to welcome Steve as one of its own.
Next week, 9 On Your Side heads to the old burying grounds in Beaufort to learn why one girl’s gravesite is the most decorated.
Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or connect with him on social media.