Throughout the summer I have been asking different players what being a Duke football player means to them. Each player had a slightly different answer, but character, integrity and a sense of “team” kept popping up throughout the answers.
“You’ve got to carry yourself with integrity and respect everybody you see and just hold yourself to a higher standard than you normally would because you have the Duke D on your chest,” safety Dwayne Norman said.
“What it means to be a Duke player is to have, to be a person of character,” quarterback Brandon Connette said. “I think that’s the, every single person on this team could walk in here and you would be astounded at how amazing they are as people, not just football players, how good they are on the field, but off the field, there’s a certain criteria they have to meet to be on this team and that’s what makes us different from any team in the country.”
“I feel like I’m playing for more than myself here, like it’s definitely a team that’s bought in and is just ready to take the season on,” wide receiver Max McCaffrey said.
“It means a lot,” quarterback Anthony Boone said. “You’re obviously a smart guy, you‘re at the university, but it’s also taking its turn away from the guys just coming here for the education. We came here to play football. That’s what we came to college football for. And we came to win games…You have to have integrity, you have to be tough, and you can’t be by yourself. We’re not a ‘by yourself’ team here. We have big names, but our big names aren’t like the names you would think of at the big universities. It’s not, ‘oh I’m going to play three years and I’m out of here’. It’s you’re really bonded to the program, you know, four or five years, I want to change this team around. That’s the mindset of everybody on this football team. It takes a lot of character and a lot of integrity for guys like that.”
“It means the world because it sets a different standard,” running back Jela Duncan said. “Not just being a football player, but being, being known for academics too. You don’t want to be known just as the guy who played for Duke, you want to be known as the guy who graduated and played for Duke. That sets a standard for other football players.”
“It means striving for greatness in everything we do,” kicker Ross Martin said. “Like on the field, off the field and especially like your habits, just doing everything the way it’s supposed to be done every time.”
“To me, it means competing at the highest level in the classroom and on the field,” punter Will Monday said. “We always talk about it and I really think that Duke gives me the best opportunity to be at a world-class university and getting a world-class degree and still competing at the top of college football in the ACC conference. The conference is growing and is one of the biggest out there. Just to play against teams like Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech and UNC, just [playing] all those teams is just awesome.”
“To me personally, it stands for somebody that was willing to look past the glitz and glam of playing in an SEC environment and come to Duke and buy into Coach Cutcliffe’s philosophy and way he does things,” guard Dave Harding said. “And you come into a school where they do things the right way, and it’s not always the most fun and it’s not always the easiest, but it’s the right way to do it. And we carry ourselves with integrity, and we respect our teammates and everyone else around us. I also think of it as coming to one of the best academic institutions in the world with the best support staff around football and the university that you can imagine. I think of it as a huge responsibility. You’ve got some great players and great people that have come before you to live up to their expectations and the standards that they have set. I look at it as a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, so it’s been a lot of fun.