BOONE — When Clifton Duck signed a letter of intent to play college football at Appalachian State, he did not exactly look like somebody with a chance of playing in the NFL.
Duck, who played his prep football at Mathews Butler High School, said he weighed about 140 pounds when he signed with the Mountaineers. To fix that, Duck went to work in the weight room and gained 15 pounds when he reported for his freshman season.
The weight lifting over his four years at Appalachian State paid off at the Appalachian State Pro Day, when he bench-pressed 225 pounds 16 times.
Following the Mountaineers’ 2018 season, Duck has been working out in Charlotte. He felt he did well at Appalachian State’s Pro Day April 4. He also had a workout at the Carolina Panthers’ facility on April 5.
His athleticism, his ability to read offenses and his love for football also paid off during his freshman season, when he was named to the freshman all-America team. He had 11 interceptions during his first two seasons with the Mountaineers and earned the reputation of a ball hawk that quarterbacks need to avoid.
Duck said his desire to play the game and his work ethic, shown to App State’s coaches by jumping into line to do extra drills while attending an App State summer football camp, helped get him a scholarship at App State.
“To me, it’s how I approach the game,” Duck said. “You can never do too much and when it’s time to show what you can do, keep doing it. The consistency will show along with your work ethic. I’m definitely that same guy. Football is just fun for me. I love that competition. Even when you’re doing drills, you’re competing against yourself.”
Two years later at the Appalachian State scrimmage March 30, Duck weighed 180 pounds and is testing the NFL waters without the benefit of a senior season in college.
“It was just the right timing for me and my family. I feel like I was able to accomplish a lot and learn a lot from Appalachian State University,” Duck said. “I’m blessed that they gave me the opportunity to come here, but I feel the time is right for me and my family.”
Duck had just one interception his junior season, but quarterbacks avoided throwing toward his side of the field. But Duck, even at 180 pounds, is not as big as 300-pound pulling guards, who can run the 40-yard dash in just five seconds.
Duck said the best way to avoid those pulling guards is to just, well, avoid them.
“It doesn’t concern me too much,” Duck said. “It’s always trusting in your technique and getting around and getting off blocks. Obviously they’re going to be more athletic and bigger. Some way or another I have to find a way to do my job, so it’s all just training and working at it.”
Playing cornerback takes more than just learning techniques needed to cover receivers and to avoid pulling guards on sweep plays. There is the film study that goes with learning the position and learning opponents.
“Covering comes from the mental side and the physical side,” Duck said. “I can watch film all the time and I can also go do drills to help myself with lateral quickness and change in direction and being ready to change direction as receivers change direction.”
Duck could see himself in a Panthers uniform, or any team’s uniform, as long as he gets a chance at the NFL.
“Being picked by the Panthers would definitely be great, with me being from Charlotte and growing up in Charlotte, and obviously with my family being able to come see me play every game,” Duck said. “They were able to do that while I was here. They never missed a game.
“Whoever feels like I deserve that chance, and they want to give me that opportunity, I would definitely work hard to produce. Wherever I get that opportunity I’ll give it my all.”