Malik Duncan is going into his senior season at Saint Francis and has NFL dreams on his mind. After talking to him, it was easy for me to hear a kid who really wants it, and is the ultimate teammate. I interviewed Mr. Duncan about his career thus far, his dreams, and his team’s goals for this season. Enjoy!
You can find Malik Duncan on Twitter: @MDuncan_7
You played your high school football at Cleveland Central Catholic in Ohio. In your senior season, you did not let up a touchdown what was that season like, and your high school career as a whole?
- My high school career started from the bottom, I didn’t even play my freshman year. I decided to play during my sophomore year and was on “JV.” They called it “JV,” but it was really like a freshman team. During that year, I played mostly fullback and defensive end. It was my junior year where I got to finally make the varsity roster, and I got to start my first three games at linebacker, but the rest of the year I was only on special teams. Before the start of my senior year, I switched to cornerback; it was a really amazing experience. It was a big change moving to corner. A lot of people thought I would be pretty shaky there since they had only really only seen me in coverage when I played linebacker. I must say though, I did let up a touchdown in the Cleveland Browns all-star game, we were in cover-3 and he beat me on the slant.
From Cleveland Central Catholic, you ended up going to Saint Francis University. Can you take us through your recruiting process specific to Saint Francis and how you ended up there?
- The family experience got me there. The coaches that recruited me – Coach Long who is still here (offensive coordinator), and Michael Craig who is currently at Cal (defensive coordinator), they recruited me and I really, really enjoyed them. They were in love with my game which was kind of a shocker to me, to be honest. I had sent my film there multiple times before and hadn’t gotten any feedback, but when Coach Craig saw it, he loved me. He became the defensive coordinator about two weeks before signing day and he was all over getting me there. Head Coach Chris Villarrial is a really great guy, he can really relate to you on a personal level. Our new defensive coordinator Marco Pecora, as well as my position coach Bishop Neal, are also really great guys.
More specifically on your recruiting process, on your ESPN recruiting profile, it lists programs such as Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan State, and Louisville, that were interested in you. What was it like getting recruited by not only power-five teams but teams that are consistently in the top 25?
- At the time (when I was in high school) I thought it was a pretty big deal, but now looking back it doesn’t mean as much to me. I think St. Francis was the best place for me, mostly because I got the chance to play right away. In high school, I thought it was really cool, but I’m really happy I went to Saint Francis.
More on your ESPN recruiting profile, it lists you as an “athlete.” When did you become a full-time cornerback?
- I became full-time CB going into my senior year, my sophomore year I was mostly a fullback or defensive end, junior year I became a linebacker, and then I went to corner in about February after my junior season. I’ve tried so many positions, during my sophomore year along with playing some fullback and defensive end, I tried tight end and wide receiver and whatever I thought could get me on the field.
You played in 11 games as a freshman year at Saint Francis which is pretty rare… What part of your game grew the most that year, and overall what was your freshman year like?
- I can remember it like it was yesterday, the year almost seemed to move in slow motion. It was a really good experience. It was interesting because I didn’t feel like I was doing well in practice, and it was pretty challenging to adjust from high school football to college football. High school was pretty much just cover-3 or cover-2, so actually learning loads of terminology and plays was pretty different. The actual game was just so much faster. My part of my game in which I could really lean on during my freshman year was my coverage. My first game was against Fordham, and they had an All-American slot receiver. I found out I was a starter a week before the game and I didn’t really know what to say. I was tasked with covering him in nickel packages. The coach was saying that my twitchiness and coverage skills were why I was chosen to cover him. My best game of that season came against James Madison. I had 8 tackles, which was second on the team.
Your junior year, you seemed to improve a lot – you played at such a high level you were named Second Team All-NEC, and set the school record for pass breakups with 20. What was the biggest difference for that year?
- The biggest difference was just continuing to go through learning experiences and growing my knowledge of the game. Like I said, during my freshman year I didn’t know much. I remember watching film in high school and comparing it to how I watch film now, and there are dramatic differences. Nowadays, I’m always using different techniques in how to cover certain receivers, and watching how they release, their tendencies, so now I’m really prepared come game time. I also gotta credit my coaching staff, they motivated me like crazy and gave me a lot of tough love. Every practice they would put us in tough situations, which really helped me out as well. Our motto as a team is “make practice tougher than the game,” and believe me, it is. Lastly, I would say working with Lorenzo Jerome through the summer was really beneficial. We worked on many different things, and it really helped me out.
As a Cornerback, what is your greatest strength?
- I can help in run support, I can play off-coverage, man, zone, slot, outside. I can do a lot of things to help my team win, so I would say my versatility is my greatest strength.
And on the other hand, as you go into your senior year, what area of your game are you working to improve on the most?
- My press coverage. A lot of people like my press game, but I personally don’t as much. I feel comfortable doing it, but watching film I think I can be better. I have shown some good press skills, I just need to sharpen up there a little. I also want to get even better in run defense, I don’t miss a lot of tackles but I still want to be better there.
Each year of your career you guys have gotten a little better in the NEC, and you even won it last year. Do you like your chances this year? And how can you continue to build off last year’s success?
- I like our chances a lot, mostly because of our experience, and I also know our coaching staff will have us ready. We just gotta do what we do, take everything one day at a time. It’s in the off-season where everything is won, and we’ve been working hard but need to continue to do so, if we do, we should get good results.
You guys played in the FCS playoffs last year, but unfortunately lost to Villanova in Round 1, what was that experience like, and what can the team as a whole learn from that?
- The experience of getting there was fantastic, I couldn’t believe it. It was the first-ever not only for me, but for Saint Francis. Walking out for warmups, seeing “FCS Playoffs” on the big screen, knowing it was on ESPN3, and the atmosphere being so amazing, it was really exciting. Next time, what we need to do is relax a little bit. We gotta go in there focused, and make sure we’re completely ready to play.
From both your college and high school career, and I’m sure there are many, but what is one memory from each that you’ll never forget?
- Being part of the first-ever NEC title and first-ever FCS playoff berth for Saint Francis was definitely an unforgettable experience. As for high school, we had the second ever playoff berth in 32 years, and also won the conference title in one year. These were very similar situations and both really great memories.
Often times college athletes learn so much off of the field, court, ice… What is one life lesson you have learned that you’ll always keep with you?
- My mom and grandmother (before she passed) were always on me about this. Treat people how you would want to be treated, and be kind to people. You never know what people are going through during their day, so even holding the door or saying, “hi” can brighten up their day. Another thing I learned was that there are always multiple ways to handle a situation, so you should take your time and try to figure out the best one before you do something. This also goes with being calm and thinking before you react even during tough situations.
From where you are now, what are you hoping to make of your football career?
- I’m planning on going to the NFL. That’s my goal, and it’s been my goal since I was a kid. I remember as a kid having some Cleveland Browns gear, and for years now cheering for them. I have always been dreaming of playing in the NFL. I know there are other leagues out there such as the CFL, but the NFL has always been my dream, and you gotta dream you can get there if you want to get there.
What do you want readers to know about Malik Duncan; is there anything else you want to say?
- I don’t want people to just focus on me, I want them to focus on my team, to focus on our coaching staff, and to focus on our program. We got a lot of good things going here. So, like I said, please don’t try to just focus on one guy, we have so much talent here. Lastly, I’d like to give an official shout-out to our coaching staff, and all of my friends and teammates! Pay attention to Saint Francis, we want to turn heads like we did last year.
I will certainly be following his career and he rooting for him all the way. If he can find his way onto a roster I’ll be sure to let you know, and maybe produce a follow-up interview!
You can follow me on Twitter: @Nfl_drafthub.
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