Can you take us through the commitment day?
Yeah it was great, we got over there to Duke about 9AM and I got to meet with Coach Cutcliffe and really talk with him and then I got to meet with some of the academic people, so we glanced over some stuff there, but it was great to able to talk about some stuff with Coach Cut. Then I got to watch some film with Coach Roper and another coach which was great, I didn’t even end up getting home until about 4 today. It was a great day to spend over there. It was kinda pre-planned for me to visit because when I had visited them for their Saturday Night Live Camp, Coach Cutcliffe had told me that he really wanted to get me back on campus and just talk about life and football, so we got a good balance of both. My mom got to come with me for this visit.
So did you go into the visit knowing you were ready to commit to Duke ?
Oh yeah, actually it was something that me and Coach Roper had talked about doing in this way because I had told him over the phone because I couldn’t wait to get it off my chest. So we agreed that I would tell him and then we would kinda keep it quiet and not go public with it until I could tell Coach Cutcliffe. So it’s been my plan to tell Coach Cut when I showed up on campus.
When did that conversation happen with Coach Roper ?
We talked back sometime in June I want to say, yeah it was around June 22 or so. I really wanted to tell Coach Cutcliffe in person though because he had offered me in person, so I wanted to soak it all in and have that experience of telling him in person which was more special to me in being able to tell him face to face.
So what were the reactions from Coach Roper in June and then Coach Cutcliffe today to you committing?
Coach Roper it was funny because I was kinda nervous in trying to explain myself, but he was saying how great it was when I was telling him that I wanted to commit and that I also wanted to tell Coach Cut in person, he told me it was the best phone call he had in awhile. Then with Coach Cut, he had been on vacation with his wife, then we ended up in our meeting getting to talk about football and the quarterback position and his whole career and leadership and everything. Then he asked me if I was ready to be a leader for them in the class of 2018 and I had already planned it all out to give him my own spiel that day but I told him yeah I was ready, he was real excited and we got a picture together.
How was that for you seeing those reactions?
Oh man it was unreal because you see and know the reputation that he has, the respect people have for him, it was great. It meant the world to me. It’s still surreal that I’m committed because normally you are used to be able to sleep on things when you know you want to commit and that’s what I think I kinda felt back in June when I told Coach Roper, but now it’s the fun part where everybody gets to know and I get to brag about Duke and the whole circuit and now I’ll be talking even more with other 2018 kids which will be the fun part. Just going to embrace it.
Which guys in either 2017 or 2018 are you either already talking to about joining those Duke classes or planning to talk to ?
There’s several 2017 guys that I already talked to once I got my offer or they hit me up. One was Damani Neal, he hit me after I first got committed and I’ve been talking to a lot of guys in my class, a lot of DBs like Taiyon Palmer, Alondras Strong, there’s some DBs who kinda already have offers from Duke, so I’ve been hitting them up and tell them about the whole situation we have going on at Duke now. I’ve also been talking with Blaine Scott, he’s a 2018 offensive tackle from Ohio, we met up at either a Junior Day or a game, something like that, but ever since then we’ve been talking to each other. There’s a bunch of guys I’ve met just from bouncing around, so I’m looking forward to getting some more guys.
What’s their feedback been to you with that group you’ve been talking to?
Kinda just the guys I’ve been working on getting on board already, I’ve been talking to them about getting a feel for the program and how the staff will be very respectful to you if you are respectful to them. The biggest thing for me is it really feels like a family there and I’ve been stressing that to guys I’ve been talking to. You will feel like family the moment you get on campus, they are great to recruits and their families, your friends, I’ve talked with them about how important that it is.
Out of all of your talks and experiences with Duke, what reinforced for you what you just talked about with Duke feeling like a family to you ?
It’s just the respect they have for everything. When you get there, they talk with you about your family life, your life as a whole and they get to know you as a person before they will even ask you anything about football which meant a lot to me. They just seemed like a friend to me, and they get to know every part of you which meant a lot to me. On top of that, they were fantastic to my mom too, she loves all of them. I think the biggest thing they said that Coach Cutcliffe said to me was that he really felt like it was meant to be that I would commit to them because my dad had actually undergone treatment at Duke Hospital for a brain tumor, so the way I look at the doctors there, I feel like they gave me another 5 years with my dad, so Duke really just has a special place in my heart because of that and now I’m going to be able to give back to the school in some way what they gave to me in giving me that extra time with my dad before he passed. It’s surreal that I’m going to be going there.
You mentioned getting to talk football with Coach Cutcliffe earlier…what’s it like for you getting to do that with him knowing the guys he’s had the opportunity to coach in the past, especially at the quarterback position?
Yeah he’s the guru for quarterbacks and I don’t think there’s anybody else better in the country to coach that position, and it’s not just coaching on the field, he coaches you off the field too and in life. He would explain things to me how he deals with situations, like today he was talking about how people will get put into situations sometimes that they aren’t prepared for and he said that’s something that him and his staff take a great amount of pride in is making sure you are prepared as players for the real world and for when they step on the field on Saturdays. He stressed that to me was how they do leadership there and they bring in military guys sometimes to help them teach the guys on how to develop that leadership. That was something he really talked with me about this last time we talked and how that’s a big part of the position.
How much have Coach Roper or Coach Cutcliffe discussed with you potential future depth chart at the quarterback position and where they see you?
Yeah everytime I talk with Coach Roper we talk about film he’s watched or we watch film together and what they look for in every play. Then we talk about how they correct their quarterbacks and how that’s helping me get a head start. So we’ll see how 2017 works out and whether they get a QB in that class and I think they have a couple of redshirt freshman there already, so I think things will be laid out well as I’m getting in there, we’ll just have to see who goes where. That’s something we’ll continue to talk about and of course when you get there you have to prove yourself as a player, which I’m ready to do.
What led you to want to make your commitment so early?
Yeah I feel like I’ve never been a fan of the number game like some guys who are out to get like 17 or 20 offers or however many, that’s never been me. Once I got the school I wanted I just rolled with that and really started to get to know them. I’ve always like Duke academics and then once I started learning more about Coach Cutcliffe I got more excited. They started recruiting me after my freshman season, so it’s been for awhile and I knew there wasn’t anything I was waiting for, so I said to myself, why not just go ahead and do it and commit instead of waiting for like 18 other quarterbacks to commit and take my spot, so I figured I would just go ahead and take my spot at a place where I could really see myself being. To me it doesn’t seem like it’s early because I’ve been getting to know them for such a long time, I just didn’t want to play the numbers game and see how many schools I could get interested, I was ready to commit.
We’ve heard that Duke made you a major priority, can you help us understand what you either felt or heard from the staff that indicated to you that you were a major priority to them?
I’ll tell you, every time I got there, whether it be the first or fifth time, it felt like every coach knew who I was by name, every person in the office did too, they always had a big smile when I talked to them and they always had great respect for us. The first time I met Coach Roper, he told me, when Coach Montgomery was there, he kinda told me that they really loved me as a person and a player and he explained how they do a big meeting as a staff where they watch film and we don’t do that for every guy, we do that for two or three guys maybe, so it’s not something they take lightly when they told me they had watched me like that. Then Coach Roper talked with me about how he watched a ton of film and he had watched my sophomore year film and highlights and he told me I was the best QB in the 2018 class. They always explained to me that I was one of their top priorities and they told me they loved getting North Carolina guys since they’ve had Anthony Boone before at QB from North Carolina and they like that tradition of getting the hometown hero. I loved that.
So do you consider your commitment to be 100% and you are shutting your recruitment down?
Yes sir, there’s nothing really else I could really want from a college. I’m 100% solid.
Now that you have committed, have you discussed with them the possibility of graduating early in your senior year?
Yeah, we kinda talked about it a little. We said there’s kinda some pros and cons to it and we can talk more after my junior season once we know a little bit more about how the playing time situation is working out and whether they want to redshirt me or not, so that’s something we’ll look at down the road.
How much have you guys talked with the staff about the possibility of them adding another QB in either 2017 or 2018 ? Was that even really a part of the evaluation process for you in deciding on Duke?
Not really very much because it’s not so much like it’s a threat, it’s just something I’ve been aware of. I don’t care too much about it, so if they get another guy or if they don’t, I’m prepared for both ways.
What are your thoughts on the offensive talent they will be surrounding you with on the offensive line and at the other offensive skill positions?
Yeah that’s going to be great and even Coach Roper was talking about it today when we were watching film. He was talking about the completions you could see in the short passing game but then he talked about you are going to see some things this year that you haven’t even seen yet and he’s looking forward to different guys being able to make plays on the deep ball or through double moves and other stuff like that because they have some guys who can go up for 50/50 balls and turn them into not 50/50 balls but more like 75/25 completions. They are great at recruiting o-lineman and I’ve seen a bunch of their offensive guys and offensive lineman walking around, so I’m looking forward to getting some 2018 guys and finding that right balance and getting the ball up to them and seeing them do what they do. We actually got a guy, Ricky Person that they have offered at running back, he’s transferring to my school this year so I’m going to get him in my backfield this year and I’m going to for sure try and recruit him a little bit this year. If we can keep getting good running backs, that’s going to help things out even more.
As we wrap up, is there anything you want to share to your future Duke fans as the first commit for the Class of 2018 to them?
Just expect to get over that hill because they have been a couple of times in the Top 25, now we’re working on getting into the Top 10 and keep doing more. It’s like when I talked with them, the goal is getting into ACC Championships and the Bowl Championship, that’s what they want. They’ve come a long way from where they were, but now it’s time to get over that last little hill, which I want to help do when I get there.