East Carolina

ECU end mixes mayhem, music

East Carolina football fans have watched defensive end C.J. Wilson sack quarterbacks, slam running backs and generally create mayhem on many fall Saturdays.

What they might not have seen is Wilson pounding the piano keyboard on Sundays at Belhaven's Mount Olive Pentecostal Church, where his father, Amos, is pastor.

Wilson prefers gospel songs such as "Blessed Assurance," "I Need Thee Every Hour," and "The Old Rugged Cross."

"I started playing at age three,'' he said. "I loved it."

In addition to playing at church, Wilson displays his diversity at the team's annual talent show, knocking out tunes such as "Hit The Road Jack."

On road trips, Wilson and teammates Leon Best and Scotty Robinson have played in hotel lobbies, well enough to attract crowds.

Wilson grew up in Belhaven to the sound of music. His father was a musician and his mother, Doris, gathered little C.J. (Clarence James), his six brothers and two sisters around the piano regularly.

The kids were active and Amos made sure they had an opportunity to participate in recreational sports as well.

Five of the boys (Amos Jr., Everett, Titus, Jacob and C.J.) have, or are, playing college football and Daniel competed in college basketball. The sisters (Esther and Raquel) were high school track and basketball players. Jonathan, an 11th- grader, became a computer whiz.

C.J. earned star status at Northside High, where he played for coach Bing Mitchell on football Friday nights and made music on Sunday mornings.

"He can play rings around me," Amos said.

Wilson gets solid reviews from his position coach, Vernon Hargreaves, who says, "He does a pretty good job, [and] gospel, that's his niche."

Wilson, a 6-foot-4, 264-pound junior, looks as if he could lift a grand piano.

He used that muscle and quickness to lead ECU in sacks (seven), make 10 tackles for loss and record 12 quarterback hurries last season.

That earned him a spot on the All-Conference USA second team, and league coaches voted him onto the preseason first unit this fall.

Wilson, who also made ECU's honor roll the past two years, has had an impressive training camp along with fellow all-league end Zach Slate.

"[C.J.] has real good quickness for a guy his size,'' Hargreaves said. "His pass rushing is above average. He's strong as an ox and straight-ahead fast. We are trying to get him to play at that [peak] speed all the time."

And keep making music, of course.