ST. GEORGE – Tonight is the night. Well, maybe. For Joe Don Duncan, the night is probably still a couple of nights away. But tonight at 8 p.m. (EST) the 2014 NFL Draft will begin. And with years of hard work and several tough injury rehabilitations behind him, the Dixie State tight end hopes he’s done enough to earn a shot at the League.
It has taken a few months, but the All-American Tight End has finally healed and was cleared two weeks ago with a full bill of health from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
So tonight he’ll wait and watch and perhaps his name will get called. If it does, he will be the first football player ever taken in the NFL Draft straight out of Dixie State.
“I am just going to watch the draft with my family at home,” said Duncan. “It is impossible to predict when and where I will be selected. And there is a chance that I may not be selected at all.”
Dixie State coach Scott Brumfield knows a bit about what Duncan is going through. He went undrafted after being projected high by draft pundits coming out of Brigham Young University.
“I told Joe Don that no matter what happens this week, he will have the opportunity to put the pads on and make a team in two weeks,” said Brumfield. “It was almost a blessing for me to go undrafted because I was able to look at the team that was the best fit for me and sign with them.”
Brumfield eventually signed with the Cincinnati Bengals and played for six years in the NFL.
“I have no doubt that drafted or not, Joe Don is going to make an NFL roster and have a professional football career,” Brumfield said.
Duncan was invited to play in both the Senior Bowl and the East/West Shrine game. He chose to play in the Senior Bowl, but before he could participate he injured his foot. That injury also kept him out of the combine drills with the exception of the bench press, where Duncan out-lifted all other participating tight ends as well as most other positions, pushing the 225 pounds up 35 times. Duncan placed third overall behind two offensive lineman.
The DSU star has been ranked anywhere from 7th to 12th for his position. Lindy’s ranked him the highest. USA Today has him ranked ninth. All of the draft previews project him being drafted in the fifth or sixth round. Most publications compare him favorably to Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. Duncan has similar size and also split out wide in several sets for Dixie State. On the downside, the publications also point out that he played against weaker competition in college and that he was not called on to block very often.
Duncan had his scheduled pro day last Thursday at Centennial High School in Corona. Few scouts attended, but several teams requested a tape of his performance.
However, the publications have overlooked what many of the scouts have asked about the massive tight end.
“I am also a long-snapper,” said Duncan. “That is another asset I bring to the table. Several of the teams have been interested about that.”
The NFL Draft goes for seven rounds. The first round is selected tonight. The second and third rounds will be selected Friday night with rounds 4-7 selected on Saturday.
“It is definitely an exciting time for Joe Don,” said Brumfield. “His play has been exceptional, but he has also been a standout leader for our team and has great character. He will continue to be a great ambassador for our team, the university and the community.”
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