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Indy grad walking tall with the 49ers
Charlotte receiver Duke relishes role
 
Published Wednesday, September 4, 2013 12:40 pm
by Herbert L. White

Austin Duke won’t forget his college football debut.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Charlotte receiver Austin Duke, who played high school ball at Independece, caught five passes for 66 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers’ 52-7 win against Campbell on Aug. 30.


The Independence High graduate scored in his first game – and the Charlotte 49ers – on a 19-yard catch from Matt Johnson in the 49ers’ 52-7 win against Campbell last week. Duke, a redshirt freshman, caught five passes for 66 yards, but more important, was proud to be part of the program’s historic start.


“We came out with a win. That’s the most important goal. It’s something bigger than me.”


Any pregame jitters the 49ers may have had in their debut before 16,630 fans at Jerry Richardson Stadium were quickly shaken when linebacker Mark Hogan picked off a Campbell pass on the second play from scrimmage and returned it for a touchdown. From that point on, Charlotte was in control and the game was just that.


“I think it was when Mark took it back for a pick six that it really began to sink in,” Duke said. “I thought the seniors …stepped up and took the pressure off the young guys like me.”


After two years of practices and waiting, opening day couldn’t have been scripted any better against Campbell, a member of the Division I Pioneer League. Although there were rough spots – Duke dropped a pass, for instance – Charlotte can take that experience into Saturday’s game against Chowan, a CIAA program.


“We’ve been preparing for two years, so everyday we came in focusing on executing,” Duke said. “Just the little things in a game with anybody that you play, the little things you get down on yourself about, like looking the ball all the way in, making that big play, making that big catch, things like that can be fixed.”


With 22 players from Mecklenburg County on the 49ers’ roster, Charlotte is already reaping the rewards of recruiting its backyard. Duke asserted that building the program with homegrown talent is mutually beneficial.
“It’s just a proud moment to see the city you’re from expanding its rep like this is a very proud moment,” he said. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”

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