Duncan's Big Day

Rashaad Duncan has had a difficult year, not the usual fun spring for a college senior, but it could all come together for him sometime Sunday evening.

In just four years, a difficult task for athletes, defensive tackle Rashaad Duncan will graduate from Pittsburgh. And he also could get a call to sign with a professional team, as the NFL Draft comes to an end. Duncan isn't expect to get drafted, but he could sign as a free agent shortly thereafter.

"It was tough for me to put in more work after the season,'' Duncan said. "I wish I could have, but I still had to go to school. I've only been here four years, but I'm going to graduate. All it seems like I do is train and go to class, but I'm looking forward to graduation and the draft. It's a big month for me.

"A lot of guys like Shady and McKillop, they went away to train. That's all they did, but I had to stay around here. Don't get me wrong, I love Pittsburgh, and our facilities are great. But training and going to school, it was the same grind I had the past four years, and it was tough to stay focused.''

Duncan has a lot to offer an NFL team, but he's a little undersized. That might be difficult to understand, since Duncan is about 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, but he said that some scouts wondered if he could gain a little weight to play inside. Duncan never played at more than 306 pounds and has had problems keeping on more weight than that.

"Still, the scouts saw that I could move pretty well for a guy my size, some 300 pounds, and I had some pretty good scores in the other events as well,'' Duncan said. "I had a vertical jump of 31.5 and broad jump of 9-3, which surprised me.

"They really liked my field work, too. A lot of teams seemed to like how I performed for them, so we'll see how it goes. I just have to keep working hard and keep my prayers up, and see what happens from here.''

Duncan basically was Pitt's unsung hero on the defensive line, but his play consistently was praised by Panthers' line coach Greg Gattuso for its, well, consistency. Duncan actually led all defensive linemen with 55 total tackles, including 33 solo, 1.5 sacks and 5.5 total stops behind the line. Duncan also recorded two pass breakups and three quarterback hits.

As Pitt's nose tackle, Duncan was in the middle of just about every play, certainly when the opposition hammered the line with its running game, but he probably would have a tough time at that position in a three-four NFL defense. But he likely could handle a tackle spot in the four-three.

"I'll do anything they want me to do,'' Duncan said. "I just love playing football, and it would be nice to get paid to do it. I'll get a degree in administration of justice, and I have some ideas about getting a job. But I have to give pro football a try. So, I'll be what anybody wants me to be.

"And I think there are some teams interested in me. I did real well in my field work, better than the testing, and that's important. If you can play the game, that's more important than how well you test. You all call me Mr. Consistent, and I've proven I can do the job. I hope other people think so, too.''

"The Steelers coaches showed some interest,'' Duncan added. "I guess they've seen my face around here before, and they wanted to talk to me. I was happy about that. What I do best is get up in there and scuffle, occupy blockers and move some people around. I'm not really a speed guy, but I move well in space for a pretty big guy. I guess we'll see what that means for the NFL.''

In any event, Sunday's going to be a big day for Duncan.

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