By Daniela Schneider, GoDuke.com
Teammates consider each other family. They live together, eat together, practice together and grow together. They come to learn everything about each other. But not many can say their brother on the field is also their brother at home.
It has been five years since Deondre Singleton came to Duke from Dacula, Ga., back in 2013 and began his career as a safety for the Blue Devils. He started nine of the 12 games played over his freshman year with his 63 tackles matching the ninth-highest single-season total for a Duke rookie. Over the next four years, Deondre would come to be one of Duke’s most impactful players, lettering all four years and making Duke history by becoming the only Blue Devil with multiple double-digit tackle performances in bowl contests (10 vs. Arizona State in 2014 Hyundai Sun Bowl and 12 vs. Indiana in 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl).
But as Co-Defensive Coordinator Matt Guerrieri says, “the only thing better than one Singleton is two of them.” And that’s exactly what Duke got at the start of the 2016 season.
Dylan Singleton, a four-star prospect as a safety, decided to join his brother Deondre and become part of the Blue Devil family.
Dylan and Deondre both played the same position and enjoyed one season together for the Blue Devils, just like they played one season together in high school. There was never much playing time together, but the Singleton family has always been on the field together in one way or another.
Cedric Singleton, father to Deondre and Dylan, lettered three seasons (1989-90-91) at Louisiana Tech University as a safety and was Dylan’s coach in high school. When Deondre would come home from Duke, his dad would let him and his friends run the offense against Dylan’s team. Cedric and Deondre both played a huge role in preparing Dylan to playing in college, and now they get to watch him live out his dream.
Dylan never felt any pressure following in his brother’s or father’s footsteps. When Deondre left, Dylan knew his only job was to live up to his own standards, and not those of anyone else.
“I didn’t really have pressure to live up to Deondre’s standards. I just knew every day I would come to Duke and be myself,” Dylan said. “I have confidence in myself to be a great player, so really when he left the thought was, it’s my time now. I’m just coming to take over.”
That’s exactly what Dylan did. Dylan started two of the 13 games he played in last season, recording 41 total tackles. Now in his third year in the back end, Dylan is starting at the Rover safety position and becoming a clear leader for the Blue Devil defense.
Five games into the 2018 season, Dylan already has matched his total number of stops from 2017 with a season high of 11 coming in the year-opening victory against Army West Point.
“Dylan has a great understanding of what we’re trying to get done,” Guerrieri said. “The other thing, which we knew when we were recruiting Dylan, is that he a really natural, savvy football player.”
Dylan’s impact goes far beyond the numbers he puts on the stat sheet. Duke’s defense has suffered several unforeseeable injuries in the beginning of this season, including All-ACC cornerback Mark Gilbert and All-ACC safety Jeremy McDuffie as well as Michael Carter II.
Dylan has taken an increased role in Durham as one of the few veteran players in the defensive secondary. Just as Deondre was once the leader for Dylan, it is now Dylan’s time to be the leader for those looking up to him.
Although Dylan has been described as a less vocal and more of a lead by example player, he has made major impacts on Duke’s underclass defensive backs, including Marquis Waters and Leonard Johnson. The confidence Dylan had coming into this season is part of what has made him such a leader to the rest of the team.
“I’m so proud of who Dylan is, and I think you’re seeing him be a better person and a better player because he’s trying to help other guys in that room be as good as they can be,” Guerrieri said. “Extra time in the film room with Marquis Waters and Leonard Johnson, making more checks in our secondary and being more vocal on the practice field about our habits is all part of what has helped Dylan this season.”
Playing for Duke has challenges way beyond what happens on the field. With Duke ranking as one of the top 10 universities in the country, Dylan constantly has to balance his sociology major with his football career.
This challenge is one that Dylan knew, and wanted, when he chose to come to Duke. His choice was an investment in himself. It was a 40-year decision rather than just a four-year decision.
“I’m just really proud of his ability to mature as a man and as a player,” Deondre said. “Football doesn’t last forever. One day it’ll come to an end. The fact that he’s going to Duke, he’ll be able to use that in other aspects of his life that’ll help him be successful.”
Dylan has two years left at Duke, but still has goals he wants to achieve both at Duke and after he graduates. He does not plan on hanging up his helmet anytime soon.
“I’m reaching for the NFL,” Dylan said. “That’s really my first option, so hopefully I’ll be able to live out that dream.”