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Although the 2015 campaign will mark his 11th overall year with the East Carolina program, Donnie Kirkpatrick will begin his sixth season on Ruffin McNeill’s staff after accepting an opportunity to remain with the Pirates as inside receivers coach in January of 2010.
Kirkpatrick, who initially arrived in Greenville in December, 2004 as receivers coach, also continues to serve as ECU’s tireless recruiting coordinator - a duty that has produced notable results such as Top 40 status in several national recruiting publications annually. Additionally, he earned a promotion to assistant head coach status during the winter of 2015 after his corps turned in yet another record-breaking performance.
On the field alone, his Pirate resume is highlighted by a total of six all-conference (C-USA, AAC) first-team selections, two-all-freshman squad choices, an Associated Press All-America honor, a league most valuable player award, a NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision career record, three NFL draft picks and five of the program’s seven all-time 1,000-yard single-season receiving campaigns.
The first two years of his ECU tenure began by tutoring Aundrea Allison, the first 1,000-yard receiver in school history, and his most recent 2014 season was highlighted by the close of Justin Hardy’s decorated career that included a NCAA-record 387 receptions.
In between, Kirkpatrick’s pass catchers played pivotal roles in a pair of C-USA championships in 2008 and 2009, and eight bowl appearances in nine years. Allison (Minnesota/5th round), Dwayne Harris (Dallas/6th) and Hardy (Atlanta/4th) all heard their names called during NFL Drafts in 2007, 2011 and 2015, respectively.
In 2010, his first season in McNeill’s high-scoring spread offensive scheme, Kirkpatrick reached greater heights as top pupil Harris earned C-USA Most Valuable Player honors after setting then-school single-season and career records for most receptions (101/268) and reception yardage (1,123/3,001).
A year later, Kirkpatrick developed walk-on Justin Hardy to inclusion on Conference USA’s All-Freshman Team in addition to national all-freshman team selections by the Bleacher Report and Phil Steele Magazine after the latter set ECU rookie records with 64 receptions and 658 yards.
While Hardy’s 88-catch, 1,105-yard receiving season opened more eyes in 2012 and his 114-reception, 1,284-yard junior campaign put him on a national stage, it didn’t match his record-setting 2014 effort. The Vanceboro, N.C. native eclipsed his earlier school standards as a senior with 121 catches for 1,494 yards.
When the dust settled, Hardy caught more passes (387) than any player in NCAA FBS history - a record he set against Tulane on Nov. 22 to end his pursuit of former Oklahoma pass catcher Ryan Broyles' (2008-11) mark of 349. He also owns ECU career records for receiving yards (4,541) and touchdown catches (35), nabbed at least two receptions in all 49 career games played and surpassed 100 reception yards in a game 17 times.
In addition to guiding veteran talent such as Hardy, Kirkpatrick also welcomed in and provided award-winning leadership to younger prospects such as Isaiah Jones, who already has accumulated 143 catches for 1,434 yards in only two seasons wearing a Pirate uniform.
Before joining the ECU staff, Kirkpatrick served as wide receivers coach at Western Carolina during the 2003 and 2004 seasons which followed a three-year head coaching tenure at Chattanooga, which began in 2000.
Kirkpatrick orchestrated one of the top aerial attacks in SoCon history while guiding the UTC program from 2000 to 2002, ranking first in passing offense (339.1 ypg) and total offense (453.5 ypg) during his initial year in Chattanooga.
His offensive units also finished third in passing in 2001 (192.7 ypg) and second in 2002 (220.4) during that span, which followed a successful year as UTC’s offensive coordinator in which the Mocs’ topped the SoCon in passing (326.5 ypg) and stood third in total offense (454.4 ypg).
Prior to his move to Chattanooga, Kirkpatrick spent three years on Ron Cooper’s staff as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Louisville (1995-97) where he initiated the development of Cardinals’ quarterback Chris Redman, who finished his career as one of the top passers in school and Conference USA history.
Kirkpatrick also served on Cooper’s staff at Eastern Michigan for two seasons, handling wide receivers in 1993 before earning a promotion to assistant head coach, quarterbacks and running backs coach in 1994 where he worked directly with former Detroit Lions starting quarterback Charlie Batch. He also spent four seasons at South Carolina (1989-1992) as quarterback coach and recruiting coordinator after obtaining his first full-time coaching position at Appalachian State in 1984, which lasted five seasons.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Lenoir-Rhyne College in 1982 before following with a master’s in secondary education from Appalachian State in 1984.
Kirkpatrick, 55, is married to the former Misty McReery of Lexington, N.C., and the couple are the parents of two children - Molly and Davis, a pitcher for ECU's baseball program.