Behind The Scenes With Derrick Tangelo

The most recent commitment from the class of 2017, defensive lineman Derrick Tangelo, enjoyed a whirlwind recruiting process by earning an offer and committing to Duke within a matter of days. We spoke withe the Maryland prospect to get a sense of what went on behind the scenes leading up to his decision.

How are you feeling now that you are committed to Duke ?

I feel like I’m on the top of the world. I’m glad the process is over because sometimes it felt like it was going long and was stressful. I’m glad that I found a place for the next 4 years. I’m ready to go.

There’s a lot of people who are learning about you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I started playing football when I was in the eighth grade. Then I transferred to Bullis my sophomore year and I started playing left tackle there, so nobody knew me on the defensive side of the ball. Then this year was my first year playing defense, so I feel like because of that, nobody knew who I was early and my process started later. I played 3-technique for Bullis on defense this past season.

With this being your first season playing defensive tackle, how did your stats turn out?

They were actually pretty good, I had 7 sacks, 19 tackles for a loss and over 30 tackles on the season. They used me more as a run stopper because probably about 70% of the teams we played ran the ball a ton, so they wanted me to really stop the run and control the line of scrimmage, that was my role.

What’s your most recent measurements for height and weight and wingspan and all that?

Well, they measured me at 6-foot-1 at Duke, I went to Duke yesterday and they measured me at 297 pounds.

Was that your first time visiting Duke’s campus?

No sir, I had visited Duke a couple weeks prior, like 2-3 weeks prior with my cousin Axel (Nyembwe). For him it was an unofficial visit and for me I was planning on doing their camp, but we had a little situation and I ended up not being able to do the camp. We just went around the campus and I was able to meet with Coach Albert and Coach Cutcliffe and we were able to start getting the relationship going and get to know each other.

So prior to that first visit several weeks ago to Duke, had you had any communication with the Duke staff?

No sir.

So did they find out about you through Axel your cousin, or through other means?

They said they didn’t know who I was until I came with Axel, then they sat down and watched my film and they didn’t know until then how good I was, so I guess they found out about me through Axel. They also know Damani Neal who committed to them several months ago, he goes to the same school as me and I think he was talking to them about me. So I went on the visit there for the first time and I was just amazed by what I saw on campus.

What amazed you with what you saw?

It was just with how welcoming everybody was there, they were so real. Nobody was like we have this, we have that, just talked in a genuine way about the school and the program and their support staff, I just like the facilities, they are different there, they are really different and I like that.

When you got to sit down with Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Albert a few weeks ago, what did you three get to discuss?

You know, we were basically, Coach Cutcliffe and me and Coach Albert were in a room and we were talking a little bit about how Axel feels about Duke and we were with Axel’s dad and they were talking about if he was interested in committing. Then we talked with Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Albert about how experienced they were and different clips like with Peyton Manning and how he coached him and stuff like that. It wasn’t so much a talk about me then, it was more a talk about him and how they do things there.

So by that conversation, had they already reviewed your film, or did that come later?

No they actually watched my film when I left and when they started contacting me after that first visit, they were like, “we didn’t know you were this good.” They said I have good feet and they said for a person my size, I run a 5-flat 40 and they told me they hadn’t seen that in awhile and they also told me that they really liked that I play with passion and I play with effort and I have really good footwork. It was great to hear that from them.

Where did the conversation go with Duke after you visited them but before you committed to them?

Basically, when I went on a tour of the campus, I was telling myself that I could really see myself going there and I was just blown away by the atmosphere around the players within the program, I just felt like it was really fun and they work really hard. It basically reminds me of how we do things at my school. Then Coach Albert has the same philosophies as I do, and it felt like I could understand the concepts better because of how similar he approaches things with lineman to how I’m doing them now. That’s what made me want to go there.

So the official offer came on the visit, is that correct?

Yeah, they gave it to me before I left Duke’s campus. Coach Cutcliffe offered me before I left and we were sitting in his office and he said that they really loved me and they could not stop thinking about me as a person and player and I told Coach then, “to be honest with you, I really don’t want to leave, I found the place for me,” and I just told him right there that I wanted to commit. I feel like when you find a place that you just don’t want to leave, that’s the place you need to be at. That was actually the first time I went on a visit and I told myself, “I really don’t want to leave this place.”

What led you to have such strong feelings for Duke?

I just had a really good time there and the way they were treating us and the feel of the school. Like for instance, I got to meet Jayson Tatum the basketball player and he was telling me that everybody treats everybody the same here, nobody was too big-headed and they really didn’t have any knuckleheads in the locker room. When you are in an environment like that, you really don’t want to leave and just soak up as much as you can, that’s what I really wanted to do.

Did they discuss with you at any point where they are with recruiting overall in your class?

Well, they were talking about Axel and I, but I’m not sure how many more recruits they can get because we already have a couple really good defensive line commits, so we’re going to be very strong on the defensive line is what they were telling us and I really agreed with that.

Since you and Damani Neal are both current and future teammates now, how have your conversations with him gone when you guys have discussed Duke?

He really walked me through a lot and kept me motivated when I wasn’t getting as many offers early on, he just kept encouraging me that I have the size and the talent to play at the next level, so he basically let me know that he had faith in me and he had trust in me, he’s probably one of my best friends at school and we talk all the time. So when we talked about Duke, we knew we were going for the same thing and he just kept encouraging me and I know he talked to the Duke staff about me to try and get it happening.

So who else was involved in your recruiting process?

I was really leaning towards Wake Forest for a little while, and Wake Forest had a really good feel to it, but I had visited Temple also and I visited Wake Forest and I had a good visit, but it just didn’t work out.

Do you consider yourself a firm commitment?

Yeah I’m all done with the recruiting process.

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