One area the Patriots might target in this year’s draft, is the tight end position. Rob Gronkowski is recovering from knee surgery, and after him, the Pats don’t have anyone that can even come close to replicating the success that New England had with Gronk, and Aaron Hernandez in the middle of the field.
While Jace Amaro and Eric Ebron get all of the attention, there are quite a few talented tight ends in this year’s class. Dixie State’s Joe Don Duncan is one of them, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions, via email:
First off, how did you end up at Dixie State?
I ended up at Dixie State mainly because my younger brother Jake was already there. I had finished my second year at El Camino Community College and division one teams were kind of giving me the run around when it came to recruiting me and giving me a scholarship. So come signing day I decided to go to Dixie State so I could finish my college career with my brother.
The Patriots are in need of a tight end. If you ended up in New England, what would you be able to bring to the team?
I feel I could help the Patriots in many aspects. I could me a great compliment to Gronk, especially with how effective the Patriots are with using the tight end in all kinds of different packages. I could also play fullback and I’ve had experience in the slot.
What do you feel is your best skill as a tight end? What about something you know you have to work on?
I feel like my greatest attribute at tight end is my awareness. I like to study film of opponents so come game time I know what defenses they will run against us and how the defenders will play me also. My weakness that I would have to work on is being more consistent in my run blocking. I am more than able to run block but in my offense in college was not given the opportunity a lot of the time to run block.
Who do you model your game after?
I like to think that I play like Jason Witten. He doesn’t have amazing speed but he has great knowledge of his offense and knows how to use his size to his advantage, which I feel I do as well.
How do you feel your skills as a tight end have changed since your first year at Dixie State?
I think I’ve become a better student of the game over the years I had at Dixie State. My first year there I was just getting away with being bigger and more athletic than my competition. However in my final year I knew so much more from the mental aspect of the game than I did my first year, which helped me extremely and I hope to continue to learn for years to come.
If you were to give one word to describe your playing style, what would it be?
The one word I would use to describe my playing style is raw. I still have so much that I can improve on and learn about that I feel like I have not even come close to how good I could be. Everything that I have put on film in college is just a preview of what I could really do I think and I’m excited to take that next step as a football player.
You are a big guy, similar to one Rob Gronkowski, do you see any similarities when comparing your game, to his?
I do see similarities in Gronk’s game and mine. We both use our size to our advantage, we’re both a little more athletic than people give us credit for, and we both catch the ball with our hands and not the body.
You missed the 2012 season with a knee injury. How hard was it both physically, and mentally, to come back and still play at a high level?
I think it was harder mentally than physically, because I had doctors telling me that once it was healed I would not have to worry about it. But the process of being injured and going through rehab and having to sit out of team drills and practices was not easy. As a competitor you want to be out there helping the team and getting better at the same time. being patient was the hardest part, but once I was cleared and healthy I was thankful that I didn’t push myself when I didn’t need to be pushing it.
You had a terrific 2013 season (71 catches, 1,045 yards, 13 touchdowns), what enabled you to be so productive this past year?
My team played a big role in my production this year. A lot of teams knew that I was going to be called upon a bunch in our offense but I was still able to get the ball. The reason for this was because of how well our run game was working and my quarterback Griff Robles did a great job of not forcing anything and managing the game well week in and week out.
Thanks a bunch for giving us a few minutes of your time, any final thoughts?
I appreciate you guys taking the time to ask me questions and feature me on your website. It would be an honor to play for such a high-class organization that often sets the standard for teams around the league. Thank you.