Joe Suder: I really am. Duke is like a big family and I've gotten really close with the players and coaches there. They really make me feel like one of them. I'm very excited about signing next week and becoming a member of that, officially.
Anyone in particular you've gotten close with?
There's a lot of them, but I'd have to say Patrick Bailey, who was my guide on my official visit and Coach Yanowski. He was my recruiting coach and is kind of like my second dad. He's going to be always riding me for the next four or five years.
Often times players continue to get recruiting pressure from other schools after they verbally commit. Is that the case with you?
Oh yeah. USC, Washington, and a few other west coast schools have continued to call and try to get me interested in their programs, but I am solid with Duke. But they just tell me that even though I committed, that doesn't mean I can't still look at them.
What have the coaches said in regards to your role at Duke in the fall?
They've told me it all depends on how my knee is doing. If I am 100 percent then they want me to come in and compete for early playing time and to play in the fall. But we both agree that if I am not 100 percent or if there is any doubt, it won't kill anyone to wait another year to make absolutely sure.
What happened with your knee?
It was a football injury, and a cheap shot from an opponent. After the play was dead I caught a helmet in the knee, and it tore my MCL and PCL.
How is the recovery and rehab going?
The doctors are actually surprised, but they've told me I am four to five weeks ahead of schedule. I have already regained my full range of motion and now it's all about adding strength back to my legs. I am working very hard each day because I want to go into Duke and play in the fall.
In order to contribute, what do you need to work on as a player?
I need to work on strength, quickness, and technique. In high school I never had to worry about all of that because I was always around 150 pounds heavier than my opponents – so I would just manhandle them around the line since I was bigger. I know in college I won't be able to do that against a 350 pound lineman, so the coaches are going to work with me on new techniques.
What are your strengths as a player?
I think I am a very good rushing lineman. I can get to the opponent and wrap them up.
Turning back to Duke for a second, can you elaborate on the relationship with the coaches?
The coaches and I got really close when my mom was sick. They were always there for me and made that situation better.
Without prying, can you tell us the story of your mom?
That's fine. I think Coach Roof is going to talk about it at the press conference on signing day. She was a great lady who was a fighter. I mean she put up with me for 17 years. That couldn't have been easy, with my five gallons of milk per week. Thank goodness I was the only kid, because I was three times the size of a normal kid.
Anyway, she was battling cancer for such a long time, but she always fought. She left the hospital for Christmas and came home and we spent the day together. She even cooked Christmas dinner. She was up and down a lot during that time. Some days she'd be up and about, and others she just didn't have any energy.
Finally, I was down in L.A. for New Years and I got a call that she had gone into the hospital and that it was serious. So I had to drive 15 hours to get home to see her. She was really strong and was fighting, but the cancer was making her heart work so hard that eventually she just couldn't fight anymore.
Earlier you mentioned that as a motivational factor…
Definitely. She told me to go and get a first class education. I'm the first on my dad's side to go to college, and she wanted me to go to a place where I can become a great person. She wanted me to get a great education and become a devoted husband and loving father. It's sad that she isn't going to be here to see it, but she's got a nice view to look down on me and watch everything with a front row seat.
Turning back to football, what have the coaches said in regards to this year's defensive lineman class?
It looks like a really strong class. I think we are rated third in the nation for that, and I've talked to Vincent about it and we both are on a mission to prove we're number one.
You and Vince seem to be the anchors of that line.
Oh yeah. We're both working hard and will show up this summer and go to work to get ready.
When are you heading to school?
I think a lot of the freshmen are heading out there around mid-June. That way we can work for the summer in the weight room and be ready for the season.
Obviously at Duke there's more to it than football. What are your thoughts on the academic side of things?
From what I saw the professors and academic support staff are first rate. The profs will block out time in their schedule to stay with you all night and explain a concept to you to make sure you understand it.
Any ideas on what you want to major in?
Some kind of engineering I think, but they tell you to come in with an open mind and not to declare anything for a year and a half. They want you to see and experience everything and then make a choice.
Finally, if you had to describe the goals for this season, what would you say?
We've got to go in and work hard. We are going to win six games this year and go to a bowl game. I know Vincent said it, and he and I think alike. We're going to win six and go to a bowl. We all believe it.