DURHAM, N.C. – With the Duke’s third consecutive bowl win secured and the 2018 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl trophy proudly on display in the Yoh Football Center, the Blue Devils have turned the page to the 2019 campaign.
Throughout February, GoDuke.com will sit down with members of the program and look at how each is preparing for spring practice, which begins March 1.
For the first edition, GoDuke.com caught up with rising senior linebacker Koby Quansah. A psychology major from Manchester, Conn., Quansah enters the spring looking to cement a starting spot following the departures of three-year starters Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys. Quansah has played in 35 career games, carding 102 tackles, 9.0 tackles for lost yardage, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one pass breakup and six quarterback pressures.
GoDuke.com: Your last spring practice segment is coming up. What is one thing you want to get out of this period of time?
Koby Quansah: “I think one thing I want to get out of it is giving the young guys a confidence booster. I think after your first spring ball, you kind of enjoy it a little bit more. You’re not as anxious or thinking about it too much. But you do want to get better and show improvement for what you’ve learned in the past season. You try to see what you can work on and improve on in the next season. I definitely want to get the young guys fired up, get them to know what to do and get myself better as a leader, too.”
GoDuke.com: Thinking of those young guys who are in your room now, you don’t have Joe Giles-Harris or Ben Humphreys in that room anymore. What does that mean for you now, to be that elder statesman in that linebacker room?
KQ: “For me, it’s just a lot of appreciation. One, getting a chance to learn from Joe and Ben, pretty much from the moment I came in. I learned from those two from that first summer, first spring ball and now going on to my fourth. For me, it’s now doing the same thing for the younger guys: Rocky [Shelton II], Cole [Carteaux] and Shaka [Heyward]. It’s kind of getting them up to date on how we run our defense, how to watch film, how to lead our defense better and stuff like that. And then it’s not to be hesitant. You have to let it all fly out there and not think too much.”
GoDuke.com: With both the new rule allowing up to four games played and maintain a redshirt and with all the defensive injuries sustained during the season, how did 2018 help your defense get ready for 2019 at the same time?
KQ: “I think it helped a lot to get the young guys, like Shaka and Rocky, get a chance to play four games. I was getting jealous! Like, ‘you guys got it good because I wish I had that! My year, you played one snap and it’s over.’
“So if you’re not playing as much, that year is gone. But those guys got the opportunity to play four. They got their feet a little wet, got a little taste of it and know a little more what to do next year. It also helped those who did get hurt or injured within the four games, prior to the fifth game, to get their year back. If it’s anything serious, no need to rush them.”
GoDuke.com: Last year was your first year playing under Coach [Lanier] Goethie. What was that like?
KQ: “It was great for me. From the moment he came in, it was a different vibe and different energy. He brought a lot of juice to us. He played the position. He knew exactly how to get us going, which is great. The energy he brought was different than what we had before. It got us excited to get back and working here in the spring. Lot of technique, lot of skill. That’s how he got the confidence up for us. I think that’s one thing we needed, too.”
GoDuke.com: What’s one thing, not from a leadership standpoint but just an on-the-field sense, that you want to see yourself get better at this spring?
KQ: “I think one thing I want to see myself get better at is not thinking too much. I think one thing I did that hurt myself on the field was be a little hesitant, thinking, ‘Is this the right play? Is this the right angle? I’d see a gap and thank, what do I want to do next?’
“I think for my brain this upcoming season, it needs to be, ‘I see a gap, I know what I’m doing.’
“Go, trust it and not be hesitant.”
GoDuke.com: You’ve been a part of winning two bowl games the last two years. What have those postseason experiences been like for you?
KQ: “They’ve been great. They are an opportunity to get better and get more practices in the season. It helps recruiting wise. But it’s also just another chance to be with the seniors and play with them, too.
“This year was a little different because I was actually playing against my high school teammate, Temple wide receiver Isaiah Wright, so that was a little different. We had to get that same old competition that we had in high school back on the field. It was also a different environment.
“You’re always thankful for the opportunity to play in a bowl game, as not every team gets that. I’m thankful for the bowl gear we got and thankful for the great time, both in Detroit for the Quick Lane Bowl and Shreveport for the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl.”
GoDuke.com: Transitioning away from the football piece, what’s your favorite class you’re taking this semester?
KQ: “I think my favorite class this semester is [Special Topics in Markets and Management Studies] Business Communications with Dr. Conn. So far it’s great. She brings a lot of energy to this material. I come to class amped up, dancing a little bit. It’s a long class, from 6:30-9 on Wednesday nights. But again, she brings energy. She’s excited about what she does, and always tells us about it, too.
“I think that’s going to help me on, and off, the field. I think it will help me to speak more fluently, more confidently and loud and present around a lot of people. Relating to the field, it’s going to help me on defense communicating, with as loud of a stadium as we’ve got for the first game. It’s going to help a lot.”
GoDuke.com: What did you do to spend your time between the bowl game and the start of this semester?
KQ: “I went back home. I went back to my trainer in Bloomfield, Conn. I went right back to workouts, trying to get ready for the next season. I didn’t even really give myself a lot of time to rest up, but I did a little bit when I was home. I mean, it was a little cold in Connecticut. I’m without a car, so I’m kind of stuck in the house. I tried to hang out with some friends who were around, see some family, sleep a little bit, too. I did a mixture of all of that.”
GoDuke.com: Watching the Super Bowl earlier this week, what was it like for you thinking that the next game in Mercedes Benz Stadium you would be playing in?
KQ: “Watching that game, I thought it was great defensive play on both sides of the ball. One, seeing the pregame and how excited and crazy that stadium’s going to be was awesome. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So just coming out there, doing what we do, enjoying the experience and try not to get overwhelmed. But just play your play.”
GoDuke.com: Being from the Connecticut area, are you a supporter of number six for the Patriots or not?
KQ: “I actually don’t have a pro football team. Where I’m from, everybody’s a Patriots' fan, so I was rooting against them a little bit because they’ll always be in it. I’m not opposed to that. Some people call them an underdog going into the game. If you’ve won five Super Bowls, I’m not calling you an underdog. I’ll root for them sometimes and I’ll root against them sometimes. It’s a tough pick of a team, either way.”
GoDuke.com: What’s your favorite Duke Athletics event you’ve attended that’s not football?
KQ: “Men’s lacrosse games. Last year, Joe and I, we usually went to his little brother, JT’s game. So it’s always exciting watching him play. He needs to work on his aim a little bit when he’s shooting, but other than that, it was a pretty good game. They were playing UNC last year and we were watching that. We even watched when they were in the NCAA Championship at Joe’s house. It was a great time watching that.”
GoDuke.com: What’s a hidden gem either in Durham or on campus?
KQ: “Oh, that’s hard because if I talk about it, someone might hear. In the Brodhead Center, there’s a little rest area if you go past ABP [Au Bon Pain]. There’s a room with a big TV, but if you go past that, there’s a room with couches. That used to be my spot when I was on campus. I’d get some food and take a nap. Maybe do a little work, but definitely sleeping in there. A hidden gem in Durham? I wouldn’t call it hidden, but I always go to Tobacco Road Sports Café, usually after every game with my family and eat. Those are my two spots.”
GoDuke.com: Who are the three greatest living musicians?
KQ: “J. Cole is different. Lyrics-wise, artist-wise, he can mix it up. He went platinum on his first solo album. Drake too, because he’s able to take a lot of different vibes and different beats from producers in different styles to make it his own a little bit, too. You can always tell by how he samples and stuff. He also has reached a lot of different platforms. I’m a little biased, but my favorite artist is Torey Lanez. That’s my other artist I would have to go with.”
GoDuke.com: If you could be a cartoon character for a week, who would you be?
KQ: “That’s hard. I’d have to be Spongebob. That’s my favorite cartoon show. One just because he has a lot of energy. He’s always smiling around, giving everybody positive energy. Even Squidward, no matter how hard he tries, Spongebob is always trying to get him going. Spongebob just goes to work, excited to go to work, and again, always has a smile on his face no matter what.”
GoDuke.com: Would you rather win an Olympic Gold medal, an Academy Award, a Grammy, or a Nobel Peace Prize?
KQ: “I’m going to have to go with an Olympic medal because it comes every four years so it’s a little harder to do. Some people train four years and then it goes away. A lot of things can happen. Grammys, everything else happens annually, so I’ll have to go with the Olympic Gold Medal, because it’s pretty hard.”