By Sullivan Bortner, Duke Sports Information
DURHAM, N.C. – When Johnathan Lloyd toured Duke’s campus as a prospective student-athlete out of Southern Alamance High School, there was a track surrounding the field at Wallace Wade Stadium. A press box that had not been renovated in well over a decade loomed over one side of the stands. Now, as Lloyd’s senior campaign approaches, the Duke football program and the wide receiver from Graham, N.C., both have experienced tremendous growth.
During Lloyd’s tenure at Duke, the football field has been renovated and renamed Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium, Blue Devil Tower has been built to replace the Finch-Yeager Building that served as the press box and the program’s weight room has gone through extensive upgrades.
The improvements in the athletic environment, according to Lloyd, now back up the product that can be observed on the gridiron. After decades of struggling to secure victories on the field, the team is winning consistently, thanks in part to the efforts of head coach David Cutcliffe. In a way, Lloyd has mirrored the progress made by the football program over the course of the last four years.
“I’ve gotten better each year,” Lloyd said of the strides he has made since arriving at Duke. “I’ve grown and matured into this last, final product heading into my senior year. I feel the same kind of change with Duke football and myself.”
Having achieved a winning record and a bowl victory in two of the past three seasons, one need not look far to measure the improvement the Duke football program has made in recent years. Lloyd, on the other hand, requires a more in-depth examination.
Since enrolling at Duke in January of 2014, Lloyd has exhibited a willingness to take on whatever role the team has asked him to do. A versatile talent with experience at quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back in high school, he was first asked to change positions prior to his freshman campaign. A receiver by trade, Lloyd transitioned to cornerback in 2015, his redshirt freshman season, playing in 11 games on defense and winning the Sonny Falcone Iron Duke Award for year-round commitment to strength and conditioning.
Further illustrating Lloyd’s threshold for flexibility, he competed as a member of the Blue Devils’ baseball team for two seasons as an outfielder.
Following his freshman football campaign, he was again asked to take on a new role for the program. As a sophomore, Lloyd returned to the offensive side of the ball, playing in 12 games and starting 11 at wide receiver. He caught 34 passes for a total of 301 yards, while finding the end zone on three occasions. During his junior campaign in 2017, Lloyd started all 13 games, hauling in 39 receptions for 367 yards and one touchdown. He also was named Academic All-ACC in both 2016 and 2017.
Amidst the performance improvements, position changes and consistently doing what was best for the team, Lloyd always managed to find time for those in the community. While in Durham, Lloyd has been involved with Ronald McDonald House, Duke Children’s Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Duke Children’s Hospital Prom, Durham Rescue Mission and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Durham. He has also served as a second grade tutor at Lakewood Elementary through the service learning program and been a part of the Read with the Blue Devils initiative. Last week, along with Coach Cutcliffe and several teammates, Lloyd visited a summer camp to speak to kids in the community.
“I’ve been blessed, so I have to give back and do something to help others,” Lloyd said of his various involvement in community service. “I just feel a duty, a responsibility, to do that. God didn’t give me all this ability to be selfish and not do what I can to use my platform to help others. That’s all I try to do.”
This philosophy, instilled in Lloyd by his late mother, is evident in every facet of his life. A minister, Angela Lloyd also ran a day care for young children and was always looking out for local families in need.
“My mom was big on that,” Lloyd said. “She was always helping other people.”
As a result of his commitment to these values, Lloyd recently was nominated for the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team. Since 1992, the Good Works Team has recognized student-athletes who are committed to service in their communities while maintaining academic and athletic excellence.
“Knowing some of the guys we’ve had from Duke who have been on the Good Works Team and the type of people that they are, to be mentioned in the same category as those guys is awesome,” Lloyd said. “To be a part of that and do my part means a lot, whether I’m selected or not.”
When the AFCA Good Works Team is officially announced in September, Lloyd’s final season will already be well underway. As the Blue Devils try to make a push with their talented senior class, Lloyd shows no sign of being content with his accomplishments to this point. In his mind, this team has the talent and willpower to compete for an ACC title. Along with this sentiment, the redshirt senior has some unfinished business of his own.
“I have goals,” Lloyd said of his last campaign. “I want to play in the NFL. I want to be all-conference. I want to catch more touchdowns. But, I don’t really worry about that. As a team, I just want to win and make it far.”
It is with this selfless attitude that Lloyd has gotten to where he is today. The ultimate team player, Lloyd has portrayed an outward commitment to put his teammates and peers before himself each step of the way during his Duke journey – both on the field and off it.
“Whether football goes on to the next level or not, I know I’ll be in good shape going forward,” Lloyd said of his experience of being a Duke student-athlete. “I just want to continue to challenge myself off the field the same way I do on the field.”