One on one with Koby Quansah

Three star linebacker Koby Quansah could be pushing for a high place on the 2016 depth chart for Duke, and enters the football program as one of the more highly rated prospects in the incoming recruiting class. We sat down for an in-depth chat with Quansah about his recruitment, why he picked Duke, and how he nearly made Coach Cutcliffe run off the road over the summer.

How does it feel to finally have the recruiting process officially behind you?

Koby Quansah:  It feels great, it honestly feels like a little bit of the stress is lifted, right now I’m just kinda hyped and am getting ready to get down there both academically and football wise. I’m just ready to go down there and make an impact at Duke University.


How would you describe yourself on and off the field?

I’m a person who seizes opportunity on and off the field, especially in the classroom since with my background with having some family who have been able to send me to the great academic school that I am at right now. I don’t take anything for granted and I approach everyday especially on the field and in the classroom not thinking that anything is going to be handed to me. I work really hard in the classroom to keep my grades up to show people that I’m not just a jock, that I also have a big mind as well.


Does your high school have a similar feel to Duke ?

Oh yeah it’s a small campus as well. Academics come first here for sure as well, and athletics is also really good here as well like at Duke. When I first started playing football, the guy who coached me first who kinda became like a father figure to me, his son went to school and was a student/athlete as well at the D2 level. So during my 7th grade or around then, I applied here because I knew it was going to be a great academic program here than even what I could get in my hometown of Manchester. So that’s why I wanted to go here but I actually didn’t have enough money when I first got in to go here, so in the 8th grade they sent me a letter saying there was some more money available to help me come, so that was good.


What are your academic interests?

I’ve always been a math guy, but when I went on the visits I was looking at maybe Finance or Marketing/Management next year as well as Politics, Econ or Philosophy as my second group of choices. Sociology would be third choice.


That’s a pretty wide range…

I’ve always been a math guy with numbers and stuff, that always came easier to me but this year I’ve been taking some other interesting courses like AP Poli/Sci and that’s kept me interested as well. And then with courses like Sociology where you learn about personalities, I like to learn how to connect with everybody else as well. I think that was what so helpful with my marketing and management courses—was learning how to connect businesses and people. I really enjoy learning about different people and different fields.


You hear the Duke coaches call your decisions “40 year decisions”, can you share how they integrated talking about your academics and being a football player for Duke?

They talked about academics in the sense that if the NFL doesn’t work out for me, a degree from Duke University can set you up for life and you may end up being able to make an even better living with your career when you can show you have a Duke degree. They said that a Duke degree is that something that you could be proud of and your mother could be proud of as well by going to a top academic school and you will also have the chance to connect with people who are some of the top academic people in the country and who also want to succeed just like you do. That’s one of the things they really reiterated to me was just by being in this environment, it’s going to push you to push yourself harder to be successful in your program.


Let’s take a big picture look at football with you…when did you first start playing the game and when could you tell that your ability level was high enough that it was likely going to be able to take you places?

I first started playing football my sixth grade year. I remember one of my first coaches at Manchester Thomas Hernandez had me on his flag football team and I actually was also playing a lot of soccer first and then I made the switch to football and it started opening some doors for me. I remember my freshman year and being able to come in, and matter fact I remember the summer after my seventh grade year being able to go to a high school practice and workouts with some of the top guys in the area. Knowing that I could do even just some of the things that they could do when I was just in the seventh grade, I knew a little bit there. But I didn’t really see it until I got to high school and I made the varsity team, I just came out to play and I wasn’t thinking about anything at all. I was in the weight room and all that, but I really just had integrity and commitment to working out and then my sophomore and junior year is when the offers started to happen.


Were you always a linebacker?

When I first started playing I played all over, I even played on the end a bit. In high school I first made an impact at strong safety and then I started growing some more but my coach didn’t put me at linebacker until halfway through my sophomore season when we needed to make some moves. He put me in at linebacker and things took off.


How would you describe what Duke fans can expect from you with the way you approach the position?

I think people are going to see that I’m going to come in right away with the mindset to work to earn a spot in the starting lineup. I know Coach Cut has told me that I may have a high chance of starting right away, but I also know that I need to listen to the coaches and work hard so I can achieve that goal of starting. Also I’m a guy who will impact the ball by the way I hustle to plays and I also will look to play special teams and come off the edge, make plays for my teammates. I’m just a guy who is going to be ready to compete. I’ve been versatile in high school so I’ve been able to play both Mike and Will at the Linebacker spots. Coach Knowles might put me at Mike, but I know I’m versatile enough to play either position and Coach Knowles told me the same thing, so I’m just going to do what’s best for the team. It also depends on who we will be playing and what scheme we will be going against with how I might play. But as of right now I may play the Will and then maybe move to the Mike some more, all depends.

What’s your thoughts on the Linebacker room as a whole? How well do you know those guys and how do you see yourselves complementing each other?

We’ve been talking, we’ve got our group chat that’s been going on all the time and some of the other linebackers. I’ve been talking with Mark Birmingham all the time as well and Terrell (Lucas) and Chidi (Okonya) as well a lot. Right now we all collaborate easily and everything is going good with that and I know once we actually get there to Duke, we’re going to bond even more.


Mark mentioned that group chat in our interview, what has been memorable for you on that forum?

One of the things I remember when I first committed, in fact I was in the group before I committed, was just how the guys were getting to know each other and then when I committed, all of them were congratulating me and welcoming me to the brotherhood and all that type of stuff. We talk about life, football, whatever is going on with school. It’s been a great way for us to get our bond going for months now and I feel like we know each other like we’ve known each other years with that even though we didn’t meet all that long ago.

Which guys are you really close with from your class ?

I’m actually probably most closest with Chidi (Okonya) and Tre Hornbuckle, I’ve been talking to Tre from when I first started getting recruited and Chidi and Liam and Robert Kraeling, we played at the Semper Fi game together and Chidi and I really bonded there on defense. I know Robert and Liam were on offense there, but Chidi and I on defense—it was tremendous the whole time. I FaceTime Chidi all the time about anything.

How much were you and Chidi talking during his recruiting process with Duke?

Well I had never talked to him until our visit together. Ever since I’ve known him, we’ve just been talking, but me and Chidi have just grown really close.


Sounds like you played somewhat an active role in recruiting guys to Duke…

One of the things I would say that made me want to be active was how some of the other guys in the class tried to recruit me to come to Duke. Like Liam Smith was telling me things about it before and even Quentin Harris, he’s from Connecticut as well and Brandon Feamster told me some things about the school and not even just stuff about football but also about the school as well. Where I go to school there’s guys who are big Duke or Michigan guys, so they would always tell me really good things about not just the football program, but academically as well. Knowing where I come from, I just wanted to succeed regardless, so some of the things I preach to guys is that aside from football, Duke is going to also offer you an outstanding situation academically and it will prepare you for life afterwords, especially since a lot can happen in the next 4 years. You want to see yourself going to a place that can help you earn a good income and make your family proud, so that’s why I wanted to go there.


So did your interest really start with Duke based on what guys like Quentin and Brandon were saying to you?

At first with my recruiting process, I wasn’t thinking about Duke too much, I was just thinking about grabbing as many offers as I can. Then I remember one of my younger quarterbacks who was a big Duke fan told me things about the school and then I started gaining some more interest in them. But I think what really got me was when I went on campus for the first time. The school itself just really drew me, it just grew my interest and then once I started finding out more about the school and the program, I knew I wanted to learn more about it. Then I got to talk with Quentin and I got to ask him what was it about Duke that made it an attractive option for him and then I just kinda decided for myself based on what I learned.

What do you remember about the early communication process with Duke?

I remember first Coach Knowles probably the summer after my freshman year, maybe my sophomore year and I remember meeting him then but they followed the rules and all that, but he’d come to practice and see me workout after school. Then Coach Cut came one day and I wasn’t even doing anything but working out for basketball and they watched me do that. Another person who was affiliated with the coaching staff who made a huge impact was Kyle Mumma from the recruiting staff. He played a big role and was kinda like a big brother to me, he just talked about anything, we didn’t even talk about football much, we just talked about school and life and that sort of thing. He played a big role.


So for you, what took Duke from being a school recruiting you that you liked to being a serious consideration?

For me, the money wasn’t there to go visit a lot of schools unofficially, especially since I had some West Coast schools looking at me, so I pretty much narrowed my decision down to some of the top academic schools without looking at football. Then I went down in the summer and one of the Wake Forest coaches told my mom that if I liked a school I should look at going there. Then I went to Duke that day right after that and Coach Knowles and he told me that a linebacker had just committed like the day before, so I knew I wanted to be there and I didn’t want to waste my spot and have somebody else take it, so I knew that Duke was the only staff that was really trying to work with me and recruit me without the flashing lights. I just wanted people that I knew would be real with me and I knew I had that with Duke.


You named your top 10 and then your commitment came right after that, what do you remember about the family discussions around that time of that process?

I hadn’t talked about the Top 10 with my mom, that had really come from me so I could show respect to everybody that was recruiting me and I could show everybody what schools I was looking at. But then I was talking with my mom on Father’s Day weekend and I just  knew that I loved it and she loved the school too when she had seen it. So I pretty much do everything because of her and I had loved the school before but when she loved it, I knew it was time and I didn’t want to give a soft commitment or anything like that, I just wanted to get it out of the way and focus on my school and getting ready for college.


How did you guys actually give the commitment?

I had went down and when I was with Coach Knowles, I had asked him if my courses were all set because I wanted to give a commitment and I wanted to see if everything was all good. Then he said that I should give Coach Cut a call once we talked about that and then I talked with my coaches and they were all good with me doing it and then I called Coach Cut the next morning and he was driving on the highway and he told me that he would love to take my commitment. It was funny because when I was telling him I think he was going like about 40 or so and before you know it he was speeding up a lot faster so he handed the phone to his wife so he could calm down a little bit. He told me welcome to the family and I remember he was yelling with excitement and his wife was excited too in the background.


So at that point you are a highly ranked guy and you committed relatively early in Duke’s 2016 class. What was going through your mind knowing you were one of the earlier guys to commit to that group?

What was really going through my mind was separating myself from everybody else because you know highly ranked guys, everybody else was looking at going to big name schools and some guys will make decisions to go places because they want to be more highly ranked with recruiting rankings. I really just wanted to separate myself by committing somewhere where I knew I could make an impact and being a part of building a championship team.


How were you feeling as more guys joined your class and knowing that they were all really good?

I’m feeling really great because they are highly ranked guys who wanted to be a part of something at Duke and once they started seeing other highly ranked guys committing, they knew that life was never really going to end because you are going to make so many connections and will be successful regardless of what you do by going to Duke. Then just coming to be a part of a highly ranked football conference and playing great football, ,you can come in and compete.


What’s your perception about all the national discussion about Duke’s class this year?

I think it’s really great to get recognition for what we are doing here and also bringing out  the next group of guys with the 17 and 18 classes and hopefully bringing in more of those four-star guys, highly ranked All Americans, we just want to keep helping in building the program by how we come in this year and get the job done and live up to the hype.


Are you playing a role in Duke’s recruiting efforts in the 2017 and 2018 classes since you obviously did in the 2016 class?

Oh yeah, I’m already talking to Tarik Black from Cheshire Academy, I’m trying to get him to see the same things that I saw in Duke. I remember when I was in his shoes guys would tell me all kinds of stuff and I knew they were recruiting me to just try to get me to come to their school, but once I really got to see the school for myself, then I knew what they were talking about. So I know with Tarik he’s planning on trying to come down and see Duke and once he sees it and experiences it, he’ll probably fall in love with it as well, but I’m always in his year, always mentioning to him that he could be next. I know he’s doing the same thing that I was doing at the start of my process in terms of trying to collect as many offers as he can, but once he starts getting ready to make some bigtime cuts to his list and getting closer to making a decision that will be good. Then also in 2018 from Connecticut named Ben Tauber I’m trying to recruit one of my younger quarterbacks to Duke.


Let’s fast forward to signing, what was that experience like for you ?

Well I had signed Wednesday morning with my mom so that people would know it was happening, but my school wasn’t doing a signing day ceremony until Thursday and the AD and Headmaster of the school were going to be there for that, but even when we did the “fake” signing first it was a great experience for the younger players to see me celebrating with the rest of my class on signing day. I remember as soon as I sent the picture of my papers, Coach Knowles and everybody was just yelling welcome to the family and I was so excited man, I couldn’t even talk for that long because I had to drive back to school and all that. It was great.


What are you doing to prepare yourself for your first Duke workouts and Duke classes when you arrive in June?

I know right now workout wise I’m working out everyday after school and I also go to my trainers on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I also do some yoga to keep my flexibility up and I do a lot of cardio as well to prepare for track and football season as well. Academically I’m not backing down either. Right now I’m working on my senior thesis which is a 15-20 page paper to graduate, so that’s killing me right now haha. My subject for the paper is I’m talking about coming of age in this age we live in and how that relates to human connection and communication.


What events do you compete in with track?

I’ve been running varsity track since like eighth grade and I’ve run the 100, I stopped doing the 200 but I also did the 4x1 and triple jump, so now I think I’m probably just going to do the 100 this year so I can get in the weight room with the team. My fastest 100 I’ve ever run is a 10.45 but that was wind-aided, after that it’s been consistent without wind-aid of being around 11.4, 11.5 and I’ve been working on getting even faster and more explosive with my football moves, we’ll see how it goes.


Were those times laser timed or hand timed?

Laser times I believe, I think hand timed I ran around 11.4 or so at the Championships. I’m not too certain if I’m going to try out for track at Duke because I know when we get to college, they are going to put more weight on me, so that speed may not be track speed, but I’ll be good for football. I know they haven’t sent me the workout packet yet, but I know with my measurable matched up with Ben Humphreys when I went down there in the summer, I was about 218 and he was about 215 and he told me he was playing at 210 in the season, so I’m not worried about my weight. Right now I’m at 223. Long as I stay flexible and stay fast, Coach Knowles told me just keep that speed because in this age, in the ACC, speed is what really matters.


Are they expecting you to compete right away for a spot, or are you guys envisioning a possible redshirt year?

Oh yeah Coach Cut told me that I should compete right away to start, so if I come in and compete, that’s my spot to earn. He never said anything about redshirt so I don’t believe I’m going to redshirt.


In closing—any message for your future Duke fans ?

One message for sure for everybody is Duke is both a football and basketball school and we’re coming hard to compete as a class.

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