Sept. 13, 2007
By Ashley Earle
Every time Danville, VA native Chris McDuffie sets foot on the gridiron, he is focused on one thing and one thing only…the war with the other team. For years now, football has been an important part of his life. Each game presents a new battle, and McDuffie looks forward to the challenge.
The 6’5”, 330-pounder began playing football in middle school. Even then, McDuffie was bigger than other guys, and therefore he played offensive guard and defensive tackle, the position that would garner him a college scholarship.
“Middle school was really the first time I ever played organized football, and I loved it,” exclaimed McDuffie. “I played both sides of the ball, however both positions enabled me to be aggressive.”
From middle school on, football became an important part of McDuffie’s life. During summers, he would work out to prepare for the upcoming season. He was always the first one on the field for practice and usually the last one off.
The passion and dedication the young McDuffie had for football helped him become a star player at George Washington High School.
“Even though I loved football, I was not the best player on the field when I started,” said #68. “I did not get good until my sophomore year in high school.”
McDuffie became an all-state player, was named AAA Defensive Player-of-the-Year, and received MVP honors in the Shrine Bowl during his senior season before heading off to Hargrave Military Academy to complete his education.
While he was learning the ins and outs of football, his older brother Berkley McDuffie II had entered the Army and was training for another form of battle. Chris, the youngest of three, came from a tight-knit family who all supported Berkley’s decision.
“My parents along with my brother and sister have always been role models for me,” said McDuffie. “I respected Berkley’s decision to enter the Army. I wanted my life to be as meaningful as his.”
With that thought in mind, McDuffie focused on football even more. As a result of his hard work, Clemson began taking interest in him while he was at Hargrave Military Academy. McDuffie went on his official visit to Clemson and knew that was the place he wanted to be.
“Clemson was the only official visit that I took,” admitted McDuffie. “I liked the campus and the people, but when I was on the football field before the game, I knew that this was the team I wanted to play for. The fans were loud and wearing orange. People really loved Clemson football.”
Recruited as a defensive tackle, McDuffie entered Clemson in the fall of 2003. After red-shirting his first season, McDuffie played in 10 of the 11 games in 2004 as a second-team defensive tackle. In his first-ever college football game, McDuffie played a season-high 27 snaps against Georgia Tech. He went on to have at least one tackle in each of the last seven games, including a tackle for loss against #10 Miami (FL).
As the 2004 season ended, McDuffie believed that defensive tackle was not the right position for him.
“After playing my first year, I saw my playing time decrease as the season went on,” remembered McDuffie. “I was gaining weight and was not as quick as I should have been to be a defensive tackle. I decided to go and talk to Coach Bowden about possibly changing positions.”
McDuffie, having played offensive tackle at Hargrave Military Academy, thought he would be more productive with that unit. The conversation with Coach Bowden went well, and McDuffie went from the defensive side of the ball to the offense.
He transitioned smoothly into his new role at left offensive guard and had a promising red-shirt sophomore season in 2005. He played 12 snaps against #13 Miami (FL) in his first appearance as an offensive guard. The following week, he played a season-high 31 snaps and had three knockdowns in the victory over Temple.
McDuffie added to his stats against Duke when he played 22 snaps and had three knockdowns. In the heartbreaking overtime loss to #25 Boston College the week after, McDuffie took part in 12 plays with two knockdowns and an 83-percent grade. He contributed two knockdowns in the victory against #16 Florida State. All in all, he had 11 knockdowns in 92 plays on the season…not bad for a former defensive tackle.
As McDuffie ended his third year at Clemson, Berkley was heading to Iraq. Berkley, an Army veteran by that point, had been to many places in the world, ranging from Hawaii to Bosnia. However, when he left to go to Iraq in May of 2006, it hit McDuffie harder than usual.
“No one wants their brother to be in enemy territory, especially when there is a war going on,” said the offensive guard. “But he is fighting for America, and I will always admire that.”
The Tigers entered the 2006 season with an experienced offensive line that included seniors Nathan Bennett, Dustin Fry, and Roman Fry. McDuffie, consequently, played behind Roman Fry. Nevertheless, the red-shirt junior received a lot of playing time.
In 2006 at both Boston College and Florida State, he had an 86-percent grade. In the 52-7 win over North Carolina, he played 25 snaps with an impressive 4.5 knockdowns. Later in October in the Carolina Panthers’ stadium against Temple, McDuffie added three knockdowns.
Then on October 21, 2006, McDuffie, like his brother, was called to duty, but in another form. That night, #12 Clemson played host to #13 Georgia Tech in front of a nationally-televised audience on ESPN. In front of millions of television viewers and 82,630 fans in the stands, McDuffie had to enter the game and replace Roman Fry, who tore his ACL on the third offensive play of the game.
“When I saw Roman go down, I was shocked,” admitted McDuffie. “I wanted him to be alright and shake off his injury. When it became apparent that he was seriously injured, I was ready to come in and pick up where he left off. I was not going to let the team down.”
Playing 39 snaps, McDuffie had a notable 10.5 knockdowns along with an 82-percent grade in the contest. It was his best game as a Tiger. Clemson won its sixth straight game, as it defeated Georgia Tech in convincing fashion by a score of 31-7.
The offensive line had a lot to do with the win. The Tigers rushed for 321 yards, including 216 by James Davis and 116 by C.J. Spiller. It was the first time in history that the Tigers had a 200-yard rusher and 100-yard rusher in the same game.
“Offensive linemen are the unsung heroes of any football team,” said wide receiver Jacoby Ford. “We couldn’t have beaten Georgia Tech last year without the play of the (offensive) line. The line opened holes for Spiller and Davis to make the great runs that they had, and the line kept the defense at bay as (Will) Proctor threw the ball. McDuffie came into the game and worked great with the rest of the line.”
The following week in his first career start, McDuffie had an 85-percent grade and nine knockdowns at Virginia Tech. The consistency followed, as McDuffie had an 81-percent grade and 6.5 knockdowns against Maryland. He added four knockdowns in the victory over N.C. State and 3.5 knockdowns against South Carolina.
At the end of his red-shirt junior season, McDuffie had played 340 snaps, more than starter Roman Fry. He tallied 50 knockdowns, which was fifth-most on the team, with 37 of his knockdowns coming in the last six games of the season.
Now in his senior year, McDuffie has come a long way from the middle-school kid who did not know much about football. He is the starting left guard, and with that brings added responsibility. He had to transition into a leadership role, as the offensive line lost four of its starters from the 2006 team.
He worked out continuously throughout the summer to get stronger. McDuffie has the third-best bench press (425 pounds) on the team. He has a 350-pound power clean that is best on the team. In addition, he has the best figure on the team in the hang clean and is second in overall total weight lifted. His 30 reps of 225 pounds also tied for second-best on the team.
“During the summer, I really focused on lifting weights and staying in good condition,” he stated. “As a leader, I want others to see how I’m working hard and I want them do the same.”
Already two games into the season, he has proven that all his hard work has paid off.
Associate Head Coach Roman Fry suffered his season-ending injury. He did a great job, and we did not miss a beat on the offensive line once he established himself as a starter.
“He is a very strong and powerful athlete who has tremendous upside, and I am expecting a great senior season out of him. He came to the offensive line from the defensive side of the football during his sophomore season and quickly developed the tools to add depth to our unit. He is respected by his teammates, and the offensive line looks to him for leadership. He has fun playing football.”
Although McDuffie is looking forward to a successful senior season on the field, he cannot help but be excited for another reason, as Berkley will return from Iraq this October. As his battle time ends, he will be able to see his younger brother’s battle on the football field.
“I can’t wait until Berkley comes home,” smiled McDuffie. “My parents already come to my games, and now Berkley will be at them as well. There’s nothing like gameday at Clemson. Running down the Hill and being cheered on by so many fans is something I will never forget, and I want Berkley to share this experience with me.”
America prides itself on being a free, democratic society. Brave men and women, like Berkley, fight every day to protect these rights that many take for granted. McDuffie is grateful for everything that he has and appreciates the small things in life. Football is his passion, and he gives all he has to be a better player, year in and year out.
“I feel as though my college experience has helped me grow towards being a better person,” said McDuffie. “I’m graduating in December with a sport management degree, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for me.”
Ashley Earle, a junior from Easley, SC, is a student assistant in the Clemson Sports Information Office.
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