In high school, Joe Don Duncan was all-league in all three sports he played: Football, basketball and baseball. Not the bragging type, athletic director Jason Boothe described him as a humble, hardworking athlete. He also described him as an amazing athlete, one that could jump to the next level.
After high school, Joe Don Duncan walked onto Sacramento State’s football team, where he suffered his first collegiate setback: A micro-fracture at the end of his right femur.
“I was in a wheelchair for three months with a free meal plan. I put on 45 pounds pretty easily,” he said. “I was pretty miserable; I was injured, red-shirted, didn’t really care about things.”
He decided to head to El Camino College to work through his injuries. By his second year, Joe Don Duncan had earned MVP for the team and 1st team all-conference.
After receiving interest from several D-1 schools, he thought he would take a chance and visit the team where his younger brother, Jake Duncan, played: DSU. After meeting with Coach Brumfield and hanging out with his brother, he made the decision to make football a family affair and likely become the best tight end DSU has ever seen.
“Coach Brumfield is a player’s coach; he really cares about you,” Jake Duncan said.
“We (the team) know everything about each other. We may spend too much time with each other,” Joe Don Duncan said.
Last year, during fall camp, Joe Don Duncan was hit with another trial in his life, a season-ending procedure on his knee.
“That was tough to take, especially going into my senior year. I had a lot of things going for me. NFL teams were paying attention to me,” he said. “To have something like that thrown at you when you think you will be at work the next week, that was tough, really tough.”
Coming back stronger than ever, Joe Don Duncan said he is excited for season to start.
“I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason. The coaches kept me on as a teammate-coach in a sense. I got to see things from the outside that you don’t get to see as a player,” he said. “Looking back on it now, I spent a whole season coaching from the outside, really seeing defenses and what players need to do from the box and in film. I didn’t know any of that before. I have a real edge that I have never had.”
“I’ve had a lot of adversity in my life. My parents and I are kind of blue collar. My mom’s a teacher, my dad used to own a body shop. They would go to work, put in their time and that’s what they would do. They have put that on us, as an example. You will see this in any of my brothers. We come to work, don’t complain, do what we are told, do the best we can and go from there,” Joe Don Duncan said. “During my freshman year, my dad had to sell his body shop due to the economy. The least I can do is give 100 percent to my education and football so I can give back all that they have done for our family.”
I asked Joe Don Duncan what he would tell kids and teens who look up to him about experiencing difficult times.
“A lot of things can happen to you. If you come with a positive attitude and great work ethic, there is a lot you can do. Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do it. If you give 100 percent in anything, working hard and pursuing something you really want, I believe you can do anything,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that will give you their opinion about why you can’t do something. News flash: A lot of people don’t know what they are talking about.”
With permission to play full-speed from his doctor and feeling great physically, Joe Don Duncan is excited for this coming season.
“This is my brother and I’s last year playing college football. That is going to be a ton of fun. I love this team,” he said. “Besides my real brother, we really are brothers. We are working really hard this summer to be on the same page and hopefully it shows as we give it our all and hopefully, pull out the ‘W.’”
As the leading receiver and scorer during the 2011-12 season, I’m excited to see what the future holds for Joe Don Duncan and Dixie State football.
Ed. note: This article was first published in substantive part in the July-August 2013 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.
Written by Jared DuPree for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.
The editor of St. George Health and Wellness magazine, DuPree earned a doctorate in human ecology with an emphasis in research, wellness and relationships from Kansas State Univerisity. He also earned an international MBA from the University of South Carolina with an emphasis in consulting and entrepreneurship. He has written numerous works on wellness as it relates to inviduals, families and communities. He enjoys traveling, cooking, hiking, fishing, playing basketball and spending time with his wife and three children.
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