That's why 6-foot-6, 336-pound Jared Duke of Walker Valley High in Charleston, Tenn., is attracting attention from some of America's most prestigious academic institutions.
“I just got back from Vanderbilt, and I'm waiting to see if I get an offer,” said Duke, who carries a 3.6 grade-point average, a 3.3 in core courses and a 24 ACT score.
“I haven't gotten any offers yet,” he said. “The closest thing I've had is from Columbia University. Their coach (Norries Wilson) said I don't even need to attend camp. He liked my film that much. They want me to get my ACT score up to 25, though.”
While attending an Ivy League school such as Columbia would be prestigious, so would playing football for an SEC school. That's why Duke jumped at the chance to participate in the talent-rich Tennessee camp.
“I liked it a lot,” he said. “It was definitely high-intensity. There was a lot of talent there, defensive talent especially.
His favorite part of the camp, he said, was “being taught by the coaches. They obviously know a lot. It's different than your high school coaches. It's cool to see how you would fit into their offense.”
Relatively unheralded going in, Dukes figures he won some respect with his performance at the Knoxville camp.
“I feel like I did pretty good,” he said. “I didn't do quite as well as I wanted to but I showed 'em some good stuff.”
In addition to his imposing size and intelligence, Dukes' attributes include surprisingly good pass-protection skills for a high schooler.
“I'm a little better at pass blocking,” he said. “I know the techniques fairly well because I've been training at D-1 Sports in Chattanooga with Nate Bandy, who played some in the NFL, in Europe and the Arena League. He really knows his stuff, and he's taught me so much I never would've known.”
Another reason Duke excels at pass protection is his short-range quickness. His 40-yard dash time (5.5) is nothing special but he performs much better in the so-called “pro-agility drill” that several teams, including UT, use to assess a lineman's footwork.
Basically, the pro-agility drill consists of running five yards to the left, touching the ground, running 10 yards to the right, touching the ground, then five yards back to the left ... returning to the starting point.
“A lot of coaches put more stock in the pro-agility drill than 40 speed,” Duke said. “I run 4.9 in the pro-agility drill and I have run it in 4.8, which is a pretty good time.”
That's not surprising. For a 336-pounder, Duke is fairly nimble.
“I've got pretty good feet,” he said. “I pull pretty well. We didn't use the counter much last season – it's the play I pull on – but we used it a lot in our last game, and it worked well. That's definitely my best area.”
A modest young man, Duke conceded that he has “a lot of hard work ahead of me.” He believes the help he got from Tennessee's coaches will prove invaluable.
“I liked 'em a lot. Coach Chaney is one I really like,” Duke said, referring to offensive coordinator/line coach Jim Chaney. “He's got a pretty cool personality. They definitely know what they're talking about and they're definitely intense.”
Jared Duke is intense, too – on the field and in the classroom. He epitomizes the term student-athlete.