Some athletes, like St. Michael the Archangel quarterback Dash Duncan, look the part of the role they’re cast to play.
Before the 2010 season, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Duncan was an understudy. In five years, he had two starts at quarterback for University school teams.
What a difference one season, more than 3,200 yards passing and 34 touchdowns have made for the senior-to-be and the Class 4A Warriors.
“No doubt he exceeded our expectations,” St. Michael coach Eric Held said of Duncan. “When a kid is interested in making a move from one school to another, you wonder why.
“And you usually get a story from either Mom or Dad about how big the kid is or how good he is that’s exaggerated. That wasn’t an issue. Dash came in, competed for the job and worked so hard to improve himself as a quarterback. He wants to help the team win.”
Now with only 11 varsity starts under his belt, Duncan finds himself cast in another role: college prospect. Duncan already has attended 10 college-based camps this summer and is set to attend five more before fall practice begins in August.
“I don’t have any scholarship offers now,” Duncan said. “I’ve tried to go to camps at schools that have shown some interest in me and that I’m interested in.”
Held said Duncan impressed former LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton during a recent camp at the University of Maryland. Held said Crowton rated Duncan in the top four among the 50 quarterbacks who attended the Terrapins’ camp.
Other schools, including Princeton, also saw Duncan at the Maryland camp. A trip to a camp at Princeton is scheduled, along with four others in the weeks ahead. The fact Duncan carries a 3.8 GPA and scored a 30 on the ACT are a plus for recruiters.
Duncan has become a quick study on the recruiting process in the past few months. In reality, the learning curve for the 17-year-old accelerated last summer after the birth of a younger sibling.
“St. Michael was closer to home, which was good because I had a new baby brother,” Duncan said. “It seemed like a better fit for what we (family) needed.
“I came in expecting St. Michael to be a good school, and I knew they ran a passing offense, which is probably the best thing a quarterback could hope for. I also knew I had to compete for a job. That was OK, because I’d done that before.”
Duncan was in the right place at the right time. St. Michael’s four-year starter, Jeremy Meyers, had graduated and signed with Southeastern Louisiana University.
Meyers’ backups, Sonny Adams and Cameron Cochran, were already in place and knew the wide-open system Held helps orchestrate.
After being accepted to St. Michael, Duncan spent two weeks studying DVDs and the Warriors playbook. The three-way battle raged until the first week of the regular season. That’s when Duncan got his first varsity start against his former team, University High.
“The progress Dash made during the season was something to see,” said Aaron Vice, former SMHS offensive coordinator and now the head coach at Redemptorist. “He’s probably the hardest worker I’ve been around. He’s always working to improve himself as a quarterback. He got a chance and he’s made the most of it.”
Duncan passed for more than 350 yards in St. Michael’s final three games of the 2010 regular season and then passed for 486 yards as the Warriors fell to Haughton, 64-54, in a first-round playoff game.
For the season, Duncan completed 240 of 436 passes for 3,234 yards and 34 touchdowns with 19 interceptions .
“Winning a playoff game ? that’s the big goal,” Duncan said. “St. Michael hasn’t won a playoff game in school history. We want to change that.”
Held said Duncan has done his part to help reach that goal by constantly working with a younger receiving corps now led by Adams. Held said it was not unusual for Duncan to seek out receivers to throw to after conditioning workouts. Or vice-versa.
Duncan said he believes the offseason work and added maturity in the Warriors system will allow him to cut down on the 19 interceptions he threw in 2010.
In addition to his workouts with the Warriors, Duncan also is a pupil of former LSU and NFL quarterback Tommy Hodson. Held credits Hodson for helping Duncan improve his footwork and his release point.
The good-natured ribbing of teammates helped motivate Duncan to lower his 40-yard dash time from 5.1 seconds to 4.85 in the offseason. He’s also hoping to add another five to 10 pounds before the season.
Though skeptics may dismiss Duncan as a product of a passing system, Held has a different opinion.
“You look at the quarterbacks from places like Texas Tech and Florida, who run similar systems,” Held said. “What they’ve done usually doesn’t translate to the next level and that’s a big question.
“I think with him it can. He doesn’t lose confidence. He’s patient and he also takes responsibility when he does make a mistake. I honestly believe Dash’s best football is ahead of him.
“I’ve got a 12-year-old son playing in junior high who still has more starts than Dash as a quarterback. He’s still got plenty of room to grow in the position.”