Duncan grateful for Vanderbilt experience

Linebacking great <B>Jamie Duncan</b>, who anchored the great Vanderbilt defense of 1997 which led the SEC, returned to campus last weekend and was honored as the grand marshal of the Homecoming parade. Duncan, now a seven-year NFL veteran currently with the Atlanta Falcons, talks with VandyMania about playing in the pros and how grateful he is just to have been a Commodore.


VandyMania: Jamie, first of all, the Falcons are having a phenomenal year. Tell me how you're faring as a member of the 6-2 Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta Falcon Jamie Duncan: It's going great. I've been injured... I tore my pec early in the year, but like you said, the most important thing is that we're winning. We are 6-2 and looking forward to the second half of the season. We've got a lot to look forward to.

VM: You had a chance a game or two ago to fill in for Chris Draft when he was injured, and you did quite well.

Jamie: Yeah, it was my first game back. They kind of eased me back slowly. It felt good going out there, participating any way I could, just helping the team win.

VM: Are you healthy right now?

Jamie: Yeah, I'm mostly healthy right now.

VM: How is it playing back there with Matt Stewart?

Jamie: It's great! Matt's having a good year. It's really funny how things go in circles. It's just great to see him doing so well and having fun. I can remember back when Matt was a freshman, and he was very shy and submissive. He's definitely grown up since then! He's a solid starter now.

VM: Were you surprised to get the invite to be the grand marshal?

Jamie: Yeah, I was! It was a shock. I thought they might have forgotten about me, but no! (Laughs) It was an honor, a real honor. Coach Johnson asked me to talk to the team yesterday. Participating in the parade, that was awesome. The people here in Nashville and in the Vanderbilt community always show tremendous amounts of love and support for me. I feel like I owe this city and this school a great deal, so any chance I have to get back, I do it without hesitation.

VM: We remember so many great games and great plays that you were a part of, but the one that really stands out in my mind was the game against the national championship Florida team in 1996, when you sacked Danny Wuerffel, picked up the ball and scored a touchdown.

Jamie: It was just one of those plays. The great thing about playing for Woody was that he was always aggressive. I always knew I was going to have some opportunities, that he was going to call some blitzes, and we were going to be aggressive. You know, when your number's called, you're just hoping that it opens up that way. Fortunately I got a good bounce when the ball hopped, and I picked it up. That was my first time scoring in college, and I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to celebrate. But it was a great experience. Unfortunately we didn't come away with the victory.

VM: Do you ever keep up with Woody Widenhofer or any of your other coaches from back then?

Jamie: Well, Perry Fewell, who was our secondary coach back then, he was at St. Louis, so I talked to him some. I haven't talked to Woody in a while. Coach [Norm] Parker, I talked to him maybe a year ago. He seems to be doing well up in Iowa. I keep up with a lot of the guys, even back to the Gerry Dinardo era.

VM: Yeah, you were recruited by Gerry Dinardo. How did a guy like you from Delaware end up at a place like Vanderbilt?

Jamie: I was telling the guys on the team, I think the thing that intrigued me about coming to Vanderbilt was the academic part, along with playing in the SEC. I wanted to be a part of something great, get things turned around here. That's kind of what enticed me into coming here. Unfortunately we didn't do it, but that's what I'm trying to tell these guys. You've got an opportunity to get this thing turned around. These guys play with a lot of energy. You've just got to believe. It's gonna happen. Everybody talks about, they don't believe they can win, they don't think they can win. I don't believe it. It's just going out and doing it and getting confidence from doing it. Once it happens, you win a game like this, finish the season strong, you never know, you know?

VM: You and Michael Vick are the closest of friends, I'll bet... am I right?

Jamie: Laughs. That guy is just unbelievable. I've played with some great players, Warren Sapp, Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, but he's... the best thing I can say about him is that he's just a winner. He doesn't say much, but he's a winner. It's an honor to play with him.

VM: Falcons going to the Super Bowl this year?

Jamie: Hey, if we can finish up this second half of the season and get on a roll at the right time, anything's possible.


VandyMania.com Top Stories