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Duke’s Koby Quansah Is Building An Impressive Legacy

Guys like Quansah turn up later in other people’s lives as major influences.

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NCAA Football: Duke at Army
Nov 11, 2017; West Point, NY, USA; Army Black Knights running back Kell Walker (5) runs past Duke Blue Devils linebacker Koby Quansah (49) after catching a pass from quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (not pictured) during the first half Michie Stadium.
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker was one of Duke’s biggest question marks going into the 2019 season. Duke lost two-time All-ACC linebacker Joe Giles-Harris and three-year starter Ben Humphreys from its 4-2-5 lineup.

Through three games, the fears have not materialized. Brandon Hill has upped his game and redshirt freshmen Shaka Heyward and Rocky Shelton have taken giant steps forward.

But senior co-captain Koby Quansah has been the main man at the position. Despite fracturing his right thumb in preseason, Quansah is second on the team--to safety Dylan Singleton--with 24 tackles, one a sack.

But Quansah isn’t just excelling on the field. Last week he was named one of 22 members of the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team for off-field service.

Now, I can see how someone can be cynical about an award given to people for doing good things.

But don’t tell that to Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe is a longtime board member of the AFCA.

“It’s an amazing message to college football players everywhere,” he says. “We take great pride in having a winner. Our players all are really involved with community service but I can’t say enough great things about Allstate. You see their presence in stadiums everywhere.”

Why Quansah?

His list of off-field commitments is long and impressive. He’s taken part in Duke’s Habitat for Humanity initiative, traveled with a group to Guatemala to build houses and smokeless stoves and volunteered for youth in Paraguay. Quansah tutors Duke freshmen student athletes.

This is in addition to doing all that academic stuff and playing football and other demands on his time.

He has a 3.4 GPA and is scheduled to graduate this December, a semester early, with a degree in psychology.

Quansah was born in Ghana and came to the United States when he was four, along with his mother and sister. By all accounts it was not an easy transition before he graduated from Kingswood Oxford School in Manchester, Connecticut.

Cutcliffe thinks that background helped form Quansah.

“It’s emotional to his mom [Naana Boakye]. They’ve traveled far, being born in Ghana. For Koby to understand that giving back is the most important thing. People have helped them along the way but Koby is quick to help any of his teammates, to help anyone. Koby’s quick with a text if something good happens to someone, to let everybody know.

“What an incredible youngster he is,” Cutcliffe continues, “what a terrific football player, what a terrific student, a terrific young man. He’s made Duke football better. He’s made Duke University better. He’s truly made our community better.”

There’s no question that Duke places a value on this award. Quansah is the 11th Duke player to be so honored, including each of the last eight years.

Cutcliffe says it’s a reflection of the kind of player he wants to recruit.

“We work really hard at that [recruiting]. It’s a tougher science today, recruiting, because the limited number of contacts that you get. We still believe in recruiting places we know, areas we know so you know that if a coach is telling you something, you can take it to the bank. When you hit it and you get the right people, they help you attract and recruit other people like them.”

The right people. At a time when the term “student athlete” is met with derision and a roll of the eyes, it’s always good to be reminded that Duke football is not only winning but it’s winning with the right people, with legitimate student athletes.

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