Target 2004: Gary Duckworth

Only good things have happened since North Carolina prospect Gary Duckworth became a starter two years ago at Collins High School in Hattiesburg, Miss. In fact, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound offensive tackle is the mountain up front on a Tigers team that has gone 30-0 and won two state 3-A championships over those same two seasons.

"He is the anchor of our offensive line," Collins head coach Bruce Merchant said. "He's big and has good footwork. He's just a real good high school football player."

Perhaps the most important thing Duckworth has learned during this unbelievable run is the importance of teamwork.

In the semi-final and title games of the 2002 season, Collins outscored its opponents 89-14 with an offensive line made up almost entirely of underclassmen. However, the Tigers did lose 22 seniors at other positions.

"[Last year's seniors] sure taught us some stuff," Duckworth said. "They showed us how important it is to stay close as a group."

In these early stages of his recruitment, Duckworth lists North Carolina, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi and Florida.

The school he ends up choosing may depend on his desire to spread his wings. Duckworth said he would like to stay close to home, but that he also considers the Tar Heels his emotional front-runner at this time.

From a geographical standpoint, the Tar Heels received 2003 commitments from athletes in South Carolina (Ronnie McGill), Tennessee (Addarius Bowman, Fred Sparkman), Georgia (Scott Lenahan, Shelton Bynum) and Texas (Charlston Gray), while just missing out on Labrose Hedgemon from the state of Alabama. At times over the next year, the UNC coaching staff may resemble agents for the N.C. Dept. of Travel and Tourism, as they attempt lure Duckworth out of the Deep South.

"Gary will be highly recruited," Merchant said. "Right now, people are just getting on him."

Duckworth, who bench presses 325 pounds and squats 405 pounds, is plenty strong for a rising senior. As he embarks on the final leg of what has been a near perfect prep career, Duckworth should only get stronger. He also intends to improve his tactics in the trenches for the Division-I college career that most certainly awaits him.

"He's working really hard in the weight room and trying hard to refine his skills," Merchant said. "He's a player, who is really coming into his own."

Merchant also said that Duckworth's academic prowess (3.0 G.P.A.) should enable him to qualify for any of the schools he is considering.

BIO Gary Duckworth
1st Position: OT
Ht: 6-3
Wt: 280
Bench: 325
Squat: 405

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