East Carolina: The next Wide Receiver U?

East Carolina is making its case to be the next Wide Receiver U, and it could soon have the numbers to back it up.

Former Pirate receiver Justin Hardy owns the all-time NCAA FBS career receptions mark with 387, set in 2014, but his former teammate is currently on pace to surpass him.

Senior wide out Zay Jones, who leads the NCAA with 84 catches through six games, could surpass Hardy’s career record, along with the single-season 155-catch mark established by Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes in 2009.

Jones has already posted a single-game record-tying 22-catch performance at South Carolina this season. He’s also had an 18-catch and 17-catch contest.

Even if Jones slows down over the second half of the season, just 26 more catches over his final six games will give East Carolina the top two reception leaders in NCAA history.

The son of former ECU All-American linebacker and Super Bowl champion Robert Jones, Zay Jones had the opportunity to watch Hardy and play alongside him for two seasons before becoming the Pirates’ No. 1 receiver.

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Jones wanted to follow in the footsteps of not only Hardy, but former 1,000-yard receivers Dwayne Harris, Lance Lewis and Aundrae Allison.

“I’ve taken great pride, and I hope it gets passed down to the next great receiver,” Jones said. “I’m trying to blaze my own path and I believe I have to follow such great legacies in Dwayne and Justin, and it means a lot to me. I carry it with great pride. Lance Lewis as well, and all the guys that came before me. I respect everything they’ve done.

“I want to leave this place better than I found it and I believe I’m leaving it in great hands with some of the younger guys.”

Hardy, Harris and Allison have all been picked in the NFL draft over the past decade, while Lewis also spent time in the league, as did another Jones former teammate, Cam Worthy.

Former ECU receivers Larry Shannon, Troy Smith, Dion Johnson, Walter Wilson, Ricky Nichols and Tim Dameron have all been draft picks from East Carolina over the years as well, while Terrance Copper played 10 seasons as an undrafted free agent.

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