Duckworth wanted to play in last year's Auburn victory at Ole Miss and the rest of his team's games, but was still working on becoming an academic qualifier. He got that done and has steadily improved this season as he gains more experience in the college game.
On Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CST at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Duckworth and Auburn's other backup defensive linemen are expected to play key roles in the big SEC West showdown between the Rebels and Tigers. With Manning expected to throw the ball a large number of times, Auburn's defensive coaches say it is vital that they get quality play from their backups like Duckworth, T.J. Jackson, Jay Ratliff and Dexter Murphy so there will be fresh pass rushers on the field at all times.
"We are going to play to the best of our abilities, but we have got a big task in front of us," Duckworth says about his Tigers, who are 4-1 in SEC games with three to play. "Eli Manning is one of the great quarterbacks and he is the greatest quarterback that we have seen this year."
Duckworth saw plenty of playing time in Auburn's 73-7 homecoming victory last week vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
With many of the folks back home in Mississippi cheering on the Rebels or the Bulldogs, Duckworth explains that he and his fellow Taylorsville, Miss., native Jason Campbell don't want to have to deal with losing to either the Rebels or Bulldogs. He says he knows a good number of Ole Miss fans and he notes that he could have been somebody they were cheering for, too.
"Ole Miss was my second choice," Duckworth explains." "It was either Auburn or Ole Miss and I chose Auburn because there was somebody (Campbell) up here that I knew and I trusted. The coaches up here didn't feed me stuff or give me the run-around. So basically I came up here because Auburn told me the truth and did not tell me what I wanted to hear."
Despite Duckworth taking the long road on the way to playing for the Tigers, he says that journey has made him appreciate everything that he has earned even more. "Actually it feels real good because I take more pride in what I do now because I had to work to get to where I am at now," the freshman notes. "The coaches and players from last year's and this year's teams were always there making sure that I stayed on top of my books and making sure that I did the little things to get to where I am at now."
Heading into Saturday's showdown with the SEC Western Division leading Rebels (5-0 in the league), the talented freshman has accumulated 12 tackles, three tackles for a loss, two quarterback sacks and a blocked field goal. That makes him a solid contributor to this year's Auburn team that is currently ranked fifth in the nation in total defense allowing only 275 yards per game.
Making this game even more interesting for Duckworth is the fact that he has long standing relationships with several Ole Miss players. "Jamie Mitchell, their defensive end, Chris Spencer and Jamal Pittman, the running back--we played against each other all through high school and stuff and they are real good friends of mine, but once we hit that field there are no friends until after the game."
And as for what Duckworth plans to tell his old friends following Saturday's big showdown on the plains, he is a man of few words. "I'm going to tell them they should have come up here."