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Paul Duncan: Injured offensive tackle laments the loss of season

Matt Gamber | Friday, November 21, 2008

The fact that he’ll likely have the opportunity to return for a fifth year hasn’t made it much easier for Paul Duncan to sit out his senior season with a hip injury.

“It’s not cool at all,” said Duncan, who started all 12 games at offensive tackle last season. “I’ve been pretty upset to miss the opportunity to be out there with a lot of the guys I came in with and aren’t going to be here next year. But you know what, there’s still a lot to look forward to.”

The Dallas, Ga. native was expected to compete with fellow senior Michael Turkovich to start at left tackle. But torn hip cartilage sidelined Duncan during preseason drills, and Irish coach Charlie Weis announced on Oct. 21 that he was out for the year.

“We’re buds, and I love the opportunity to see Turko play,” said Duncan, a management-entrepreneurship major. “It was really disappointing for me in camp when the real battle went down and I got hurt and couldn’t fight for it. But I’m really happy for Turk, and he’s played really well.”

Though unable to suit up on Saturdays, Duncan has taken pride in the marked improvement of an offensive line that was much-maligned a year ago.

“We could have obviously after last year and going into the spring, just been like ‘Oh geez, we’re horrible,'” he said. “But we just kept pushing, kept growing and kept learning. You just learn how to keep fighting and get more game-time experience.”

The lessons the unit learned during a disappointing 3-9 season have carried over into the line’s revamped attitude this year, Duncan said.

“It’s been really exciting just to see them do well. I like to think I have a little part of it, especially from the spring with a lot of the development, and just to see it come to fruition during the season has been great.

“The opportunity to sit back and watch [the offense], go more into the details, kind of coaching … being able to sit back and help guys with different pointers and techniques has helped me.”

Offensive line coach John Latina said Duncan’s contributions to the line’s continued development have not gone unnoticed.

“I obviously hate the fact that he’s not out there for us now, but he’s a very intelligent player and a smart player who understands our offense,” Latina said. “I think the light-switch has really gone on for him.”

Duncan’s teammates have helped him keep that light-switch on – literally. Duncan lives off-campus with Turkovich, defensive lineman Pat Kuntz, safety Kyle McCarthy and linebacker Steve Quinn in a house dubbed “The Kingdom.”

“We try to keep it low-key, don’t get too crazy, which is nice. We keep it nice and clean,” Duncan said. “In the house, you rely on [your roommates] so much more [than in dorms] – for the gas bill, the electric bill, all that stuff. It’s just a different aspect of life.”

But living on campus for three years – two in O’Neill, then one as a junior in Knott – is not something he would trade, Duncan said.

“I’ve got great bonds with the guys in O’Neill. I love those guys and I spent a lot of time with them,” Duncan said. “And to be honest, if I had always lived with just athletes, I probably wouldn’t have met my girlfriend [who graduated last spring]. Just being a regular student, hanging out – you’ve got to be with other people in different roles of just being in college.”