ECU Football adds three to 2019 signing class

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) – First-year ECU Head Football Coach Mike Houston announced the addition of defensive linemen Rick D’Abreu and Immanuel Hickman, along with tight end Zech Byrd to his 2019 signing day class after the trio formally submitted their national letters-of-intent Wednesday.

D’Abreu and Hickman each played at the high school level in the state of Virginia last fall, while Byrd is expected to transfer into the Pirates’ program from Garden City (Kan.) Community College. The three latest newcomers will join 18 previous signees who inked with ECU during the NCAA’s early signing day on Dec. 19, 2018.

The Pirates’ defensive unit now features nine of the 21 overall newcomers with D’Abreu and Hickman becoming the fourth and fifth linemen included on that side of the ball in this particular class. The pair of Virginia natives also pushed the true freshmen count to 18, which accounts for over 85 percent of ECU’s 2019 roster additions. Byrd’s arrival should bolster the Pirates’ offensive unit to 10 additions, which now includes two tight ends.

“We feel like we were able to fortify an already exceptional class by capitalizing on our momentum and relationships,” Houston said. “Rick and Immanuel certainly augment our depth and athleticism up front defensively, and from an offensive standpoint, Zech allows us to reinforce our firm commitment to establish a sustained level of success from the tight end position.”

Houston, who was named ECU’s 22nd head football coach on Dec. 3, inherits a program that posted 3-9 overall mark and stood fifth (1-7) in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division in 2018. The Pirates are expected to return seven starters on offense and seven on defense when spring drills open Friday, March 15 before facing NC State in Raleigh on Aug. 31 to kick off the 2019 season.

Zech Byrd, TE, 6-7, 265, Soph., Millbrook, Ala. (Garden City CC)
Junior College: Helped lead Garden City to a 10-1 overall record and a perfect 7-0 mark in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) as a redshirt freshman in 2018 … Part of a Broncbuster program which advanced to the ‘18 NJCAA eTeamSponsor National Championship Game at Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kan. (before falling 10-9 to East Mississippi CC on Nov. 29) … Made two receptions for 20 yards and was credited with one tackle (Butler CC) for coach Jeff Sims … Made catches vs. Iowa Western CC (7 yards) and Coffeyville CC (13 yards) … Suffered foot injury during true freshman campaign in 2017 and was redshirted while Garden City produced an 8-4 record (5-2 KJCCC) and made an appearance in the CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl … Was a teammate of current ECU defensive back Warren Saba while with the Broncbusters in 2017 … A three-star JuCo prospect according to 247Sports.com … Also recruited by Auburn, Louisville and Utah out of junior college. High School: A two-sport (football, basketball) standout at Stanhope Elmore High School … Was a tight end and receiver for coach Jeff Foshee … Rated as four-star recruit by ESPN, while earning three stars from Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com at the prep level … Played in nine games for the Mustangs (4-6) as a senior in 2016 and made 27 receptions for 376 yards and two touchdowns … A first-team selection to the American Family Insurance All-USA Today Alabama Football Team following senior campaign … Also invited to represent Alabama in the 30th annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Game (Dec. 10) at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl … Was listed as the state’s No. 1 tight end (No. 31 nationally) in the 2017 class according the 247Sports Composite, an industry generated average … Overall, considered Alabama’s 19th-best overall prospect following high school career … Had offers from Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech and many others before initially committing to the Gators’ program. Personal: Son of Jonathan and Lillian Byrd … Full name is Zechariah Byrd.

Rick D’Abreu, DL, 6-2, 240, Fr., Chester, Va. (Thomas Dale HS)
High School: Earned three football letters for coach Kevin Tucker at Thomas Dale … Completed prep career with a total of 141 tackles (83 solo), 28.0 TFLs, 15.0 sacks and 22 quarterback pressures in 24 games … Senior season was limited to just three games because of injury, but still was credited with 31 solo stops, 13.0 TFLs, 7.0 sacks (-18 yards) and 10 pressures in 2018 … Part of a Knights’ program that went 9-3 overall (5-1 region) and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs after a 7-0 victory over Cosby in the postseason opener … Produced a season-high 13 tackles (4.0 for lost yardage) and 2.0 sacks vs. Bird, while turning in 10 hits (5.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks) in a regular season matchup against Cosby and eight more stops, including a personal best 3.0 sacks, vs. Hermitage … Played in 10 contests as a junior in 2017, logging 72 total tackles (14 solo), 7.0 sacks and six QB hurries to help TDHS to similar 9-3 and 5-1 marks and a playoff triumph (50-0 vs. Franklin County) … Netted 12 stops in each of the first three outings (Cosby, Bird, Hermitage) before racking up nine in a matchup vs. Petersburg … Recorded at least one sack in six games with a season-high of two (Bird) … Also helped lead Knights to a 9-3 record, which included a 33-9 first-round playoff victory over James River, during his first full-time varsity campaign as a sophomore in 2016 … Appeared in 11 games and booked 38 stops, 2.0 TFL, a sack and six pressures … Turned in a season-best 10-tackle effort vs. Petersburg, added six against Prince George and five each in matchups vs. Colonial Heights and Matoaca … Invited to play for the U.S. National Team in the International Federation of American Football U-19 World Championship in Mexico City, which went on to capture a bronze medal competing in a field that consisted of teams from Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Japan and Australia … A three-star prospect according to 247Sports.com … In addition to ECU, also recruited by FBS members Colorado, Massachusetts and Tulane. Personal: Son of Richard and Makeba D’Abreu.

Immanuel Hickman, DL, 6-3, 260, Fr., Chesterfield, Va. (Matoaca HS)
High School: A four-year letterman who enjoyed a standout prep career on both sides of the ball as a defensive end, linebacker and tight end for the Warriors at Matoaca … A three-time all-region performer (twice named to the first unit) and all-state selection while playing for coaches Jay Parker (2018) and Derrick Johnson … Chosen to the 2018 All-DMV Preseason Team, which consists of the top players in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia, by DMVStream.com … Credited with 130 total tackles, 10.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and seven recoveries in 10 contests as a junior in 2017 … Named the Progress Index Football Athlete-of-the-Week (Oct. 31) after registering a season-high 13 stops, 2.0 sacks and a fumble recovery during the Warriors’ 28-21 win over Prince George … Before a 5-5 mark as a sophomore in 2016, helped lead MHS to a 7-4 record and playoff appearance as a freshman during first varsity season … Played at the high school junior varsity level as an eighth-grader before earning promotion a year later … A three-star prospect according to 247Sports.com, Rivals.com and ESPN … Rated as the No. 19 overall recruit in the state of Virginia by Rivals … Invited to play for the U.S. National Team in the International Federation of American Football U-19 World Championship in Mexico City, which went on to capture a bronze medal competing in a field that consisted of teams from Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Japan and Australia … Also selected to compete for the South squad in the sixth annual Big River Rivalry, an all-star game that features teams from the north and south sides of the James River … Chose ECU over Air Force, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Kent State, Marshall, Navy, Temple, Tulane and UCF (along with a multitude of others) … Played at the same high school program as current ECU inside linebackers coach Byron Thweatt. Personal: Son of pastor Derwin Hickman, Sr. and co-pastor Franswalla Hickman … Nickname is Manny … Credits older brother Derwin Jr. for introducing him to football … Also has a sister (Dymon) … Uncle played collegiate basketball.