Tight end Mark Birmingham (@MBirm4)has just a few games left in his prep career before officially becoming a part of the Duke football community as a member of the 2016 recruiting class. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound prospect committed to the Blue Devils during his junior season and has been anticipating donning the blue and white gear ever since.
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Birmingham, a senior at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Va., just miles from Washington, D.C., is a four-star recruit and is in the ESPN Top 300. He is the number four overall prospect in the state of Virginia in his class and ranked third nationally among all tight ends.
"I'm most excited to be a part of all the tradition the school holds," Birmingham, said, "not just football but in general."
For Birmingham, the decision to attend Duke came down to a school rich in tradition, a strong coaching staff, an exciting and changing football culture, and an academic experience that can’t be beat. He values hard work and getting a great education.
"I truly felt that no matter what, that this school and program was what's best for me," he said.
When the average person contemplates Duke University, the first two things that likely come to mind are basketball and education. Under the David Cutcliffe regime, football has been on a steady rise in Durham and success on the girdiron is a new tradition.
The recruiting classes improve each year and prospects are excited to join the shifting culture. Having won 23 of their last 29 regular season games and recently knocking off ACC powerhouse Georgia Tech for the second consecutive year, winning has become an expectation in Durham.
"I talk a lot with the other commits and I do my best to sell Duke to other recruits," Birmingham said. "I'm really excited to be a part of the changing at Duke."
According to Birmingham, he felt a strong connection with Cutcliffe and with Recruiting Coordinator Zac Roper right away, along with the rest of the coaching staff.
"They hold the same values and principles that I hold," Birmingham said. "Their values of what a person should be like and how they should act the right way. No short cuts, all hard work."
Tight end is a position the Blue Devils have heavily utilized under Coach Cut. With valuable players like David Reeves and Braxton Deaver on the way out, Birmingham can step in and become an important commodity in the near future. Like most pass-catching tight ends, he can overpower defenders and make tough grabs in traffic.
"I believe I can bring a lot to the team. I have the ability to stretch the field and create mismatches on smaller defenders," Birmingham said. "But all that comes with hard work and staying on the path they put you on. I'm excited and eager to work."
Birmingham believes he can improve his blocking and his technique in terms of route running. He has a few more months with Briar Woods to hone his skills before shipping off to Durham. He is the highest profile player and a captain on his squad. When asked what he hopes to accomplish before the end of his high school journey, he simply said he wants to help his team improve every week.
"I would just like to be the best leader and teammate I can be to put us in the best position to win games," Birmingham said.