Ted Roof, a former All-ACC linebacker at Georgia Tech, became the 20th head coach in Duke gridiron history on December 6, 2003.
“To a man, everyone is very excited about the future and where we’re going,” Roof said. “They see a bright future and feel like it is a family atmosphere, which is important to me. It pleased me that there’s a real sense of where we’re going, a real positive energy.
“I’m excited about the attitude of our team. We’ve just got to keep working. That’s the only formula I know, to keep working.”
Roof served as Duke’s interim head coach for the final five games of the 2003 season and, under his guidance, Duke posted a 41-17 victory over Georgia Tech on November 8, then closed out the season by defeating North Carolina, 30-22.
“When I put together a list of criteria for what I was looking for in a head coach, my number one criteria was leadership,” Duke Director of Athletics Joe Alleva said. “I wanted somebody who could lead, motivate, recruit and teach. Those were the four main criteria, and when we went through the search process and believe me, we went through a search process.
“We searched for four or five weeks hard,” Alleva continued. “My ears hurt from all the people I’ve talked to. We brought in four really good candidates for this job. The bottom line in my mind was that Ted Roof provides the leadership and motivation, ability to recruit and ability to do what we need to do here at Duke to go to bowl games and win championships.”
Roof accepted the challenge of taking the reigns of the Blue Devil gridiron program with confidence, focusing on the positive influence that Duke University can have on the lives of young men.
“Number one, you look at the impact the decision can have on you to attend Duke University,” Roof said. “You talk about setting yourself up for the rest of your life, unlocking some doors for you that other places can’t do. You’re also talking about a University that’s committed to building a winning football program and at the same time committed to developing young people to make them better people.
“I think we have a great University to sell here, not only in the state of North Carolina but all over America,” Roof continued. “When you think of Duke, you think of excellence and respect, so we’re going to go after the best young men in the country that can compete on the field for us and compete in the classroom.”
The Blue Devil defense was instrumental in the program’s wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina in 2003. In snapping the Yellow Jackets’ four-game winning streak, Duke forced four turnovers and received a defensive touchdown on Malcolm Ruff’s 42-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. Offensively, tailback Chris Douglas rushed for a career-high 218 yards — the third highest single-game effort in Duke history — and two touchdowns.
In Chapel Hill versus North Carolina, the Blue Devils held the Tar Heels to 39 total yards and just one first down in the first half while building a 23-0 advantage. Douglas rushed for 119 yards and one touchdown while Cedric Dargan found the end zone twice on the ground. Matt Zielinski’s fourth down sack of Tar Heel quarterback Darian Durant with just over one minute remaining in the fourth period sealed the victory for the Blue Devils.
Duke placed two players — Douglas and Zielinski — on the 2003 All-ACC first team, marking the first time since 1994 more than one Blue Devil has been honored with the distinction, while Ryan Fowler and Terrell Smith were tabbed to the second team all-league unit. Douglas, Fowler and Smith shared Duke’s team MVP award.
Douglas, Fowler and Zielinski, along with offensive tackle Drew Strojny, all earned spots on NFL rosters following their respective tenures with the Blue Devils.
Duke’s players have echoed Alleva’s sentiment for Roof.
“Coach Roof’s enthusiasm makes him successful. He has a passion for football,” said Kenneth Stanford, who co-captained the 2004 Duke squad as a senior. “He lives, eats and sleeps football, and that rubs off on everyone around him. Football is his first priority, but it goes deeper than that. He asks us our thoughts on the game plan, and then asks about our classes and families. It’s a big thing when a coach cares about you and Coach Roof is so genuine. He really brought us together as a team over the last five weeks of the (2003) season. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the right man for the job here at Duke.”
“I think it’s just his caring for everyone,” commented Luke Bayer, a Blue Devil letterman from 2000-03. “Before practice and in the hallway, in the locker room, he comes up to you and talks to you and makes you feel good. He makes you feel appreciated, like you’re out there for a good cause. He cares about football so much and he’s intense about every facet of his life, wheather it’s his family or football.”
Roof, who was nominated in 2000 for the Broyles Award given to the nation’s top assistant coach, previously served as an assistant coach at Duke from 1990-93. Before returning to Durham, Roof was the defensive coordinator at his alma mater from 1999-01.
In 2002, Roof directed the Blue Devil defense to marked improvements from the previous season. After finishing ninth in the ACC against the run in 2001, Duke led the league in rushing defense a year later by allowing just 120.5 yards per game on the ground. In 2003, the Blue Devils jumped from ninth in passing defense in the ACC to a third-place standing.
From 2001 to 2002, the Blue Devils moved from ninth to fifth in the ACC and from 113th to 58th nationally in total defense.
At Georgia Tech, Roof coached the linebackers in 1998 before being elevated to defensive coordinator prior to the 1999 season. In 1998, the Yellow Jackets went 10-2, shared the ACC title with Florida State and upended Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. The 1999 Tech team went 8-4 and finished the year ranked 21st in the Associated Press poll. In 2000, the Yellow Jacket defense ranked 12th in the nation in rushing defense and 20th in scoring defense, allowing just 19.0 points per game, as Georgia Tech posted a 9-3 record and was ranked 17th in the final national poll.
In 2001, the Tech defensive unit ranked third in the ACC in total defense (333.3 ypg) and second in rushing defense (117.1 ypg) — marks that ranked 32nd and 23rd nationally. In Georgia Tech’s 24-14 win over 11th-ranked Stanford in the Seattle Bowl, the Yellow Jackets held the Cardinal offense to season lows of 350 total yards and 14 points. During Roof’s coaching stint at Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets posted a four-year record of 35-14, tied for the 1998 ACC Championship and played in four bowl games (Gator - 1998 & 1999, Peach - 2000, Seattle - 2001).
Roof began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at Alabama from 1987-88 before serving as the linebackers coach at West Georgia in 1989. He then spent four seasons as the outside linebackers coach at Duke under Barry Wilson, and his recruiting efforts helped lay the foundation for the Blue Devils’ 1994 squad that went 8-4 and played in the Hall of Fame Bowl. Following his stint in Durham, Roof was on the staff at Massachusetts for three seasons and then served one season as defensive coordinator at Western Carolina before moving on to Georgia Tech.
A native of Lawrenceville, Ga., and a graduate of Central Gwinnett High School, Roof lettered four times for the Jackets during the 1982-85 seasons. He started his final three seasons and was a leader of the Rambling Wreck’s famed “Black Watch” defense as a senior, when he served as team captain while Georgia Tech went 9-2-1 and defeated Michigan State in the All American Bowl.
A first team All-ACC selection in 1985, Roof ranks seventh on the Jackets’ all-time tackling list with 417 hits. Named the Defensive Back of the Year in 1985 by the Atlanta Touchdown Club, Roof continues to hold the second-highest single-game tackle total in Georgia Tech history with a 25-stop effort against Tennessee.
Roof, 42, who was enshrined into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998, earned a bachelor’s degree in Management in 1987. Roof is married to the former Pam Ash of Fayetteville, Ga., and the couple has seven-year-old twin boys, Terrence Davis and Michael Edwin.
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