Student Feature: Bryce Duke on Graduating Early, College Football, and How it Feels to Commit to a D1 School

We all know Bryce Duke as Tuscarora’s star running back, but where is he headed next?


By: Carlin Lacques

Bryce Duke is most known for his 300+ yards run each game as running back for the Tuscarora football team, so it’s fitting he’ll be finishing his last few months at the school doing what he does best: football. 

Duke plans on graduating high school early, finishing the 1st semester out and come January 28, 2022, he’ll be gone and off to Virginia Tech, where he’ll start classes and spring football. 

Duke announced his verbal commitment to Virginia Tech June 22nd, 2021 via Twitter, (@bryceduke22). Since then he has amassed a total 1,095 followers on Twitter and 4,040 on Instagram, along with a blue check signaling verification.

This popularity goes past social media, as he was voted Homecoming King this past fall.

Duke has led Tuscarora in the Fall 2021 season to a 7-1 record, and averages 3.6 touchdowns and 238.1 rushing yards per game. The total rushing yards per game for the entire team is roughly 335.5, meaning Duke contributes to about 70% of the rushing yards per game.

Despite such impressive stats, Duke remains humble, insisting that football is a team effort, and Tuscarora’s success is thanks to that team effort.

I appreciate being acknowledged, but football isn’t a one person sport,” Duke commented.

More often than not, after impressive wins by Tuscarora, students from opposing schools will post images which insinuate that Duke is the only player that makes Tuscarora a tough team to beat. Examples of such posts include posting text which reads: “Bryce Duke 21, Loudoun County 12.”

“There are 11 people on the field, and I’m not the only one who worked late nights and early mornings to make the team who it is today,” Duke noted.

Duke’s not the only one upset by such implications. Coach Brandon Wheelbarger, more commonly known as “Coach Wheels,” tweeted on October 1st, following the game against Loudoun County High School: “TEAM* win.”

Such suggestions that Tuscarora football wouldn’t be the successful team they are without Bryce Duke are not taken lightly by players and coaches alike. Tuscarora football considers themselves a family, a unit, not an individual.

That unifying factor can be felt in a poignant way as Duke prepares to graduate.

Duke has started Varsity Football since 8th grade, so he has witnessed many players move on and graduate, many to play football in college as well.

Though this may seem bittersweet, Duke claims it can be helpful to have older, experienced friends in the realm of football.

Matei [Matei Fitz], who is playing at JMU, [James Madison University] tells me how different and more challenging it is in college vs high school. And that advice he gives me is definitely helpful, because I’ll be doing the same stuff soon.”

Above, Duke references Matei Fitz, a former defensive lineman for Tuscarora, who is currently in his freshman year at James Madison University.  

After seeing so many move on to play at big D1 schools, Duke is certainly ready to play at the next level.

“It’s definitely going to be upsetting to be leaving all my friends earlier than usual, but I’m honestly ready for the next chapter in my life, and am excited to get to tech [Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University],” Duke remarked.

Committing to a school is a difficult decision, as one has to discern a number of factors, both football and academically related.

“It’s a little bit of both [overwhelming and exciting] with the whole recruiting process being very stressful, with all these coaches calling your phone and getting on zoom calls with a bunch of schools,” Duke spoke of the recruiting process.

Not only are there many factors to consider when choosing a school, but the decision to commit is binding for the next few years of your life, as transferring is possible but can be difficult, and one could run the risk of having to walk on to a team, which means they are not invited with a scholarship. Even if one makes the team via walk on, it can be challenging to get adequate playing time.

Despite such incredible obstacles to being committed to a school you love, Duke managed to get the school of his dreams, literally.

In his Twitter commitment announcement, he wrote: “As a kid this was all I ever dreamed of… COMMITTED #GoHokies” 

The Instagram announcement held the same caption, however it included a second slide which pictured Duke as a child wearing a Hokies jersey during a youth football game.

Committing is a long and sometimes tedious process, but it was worth it in the end, at least for Duke.

“After I had a workout with VT, it felt like home,” Duke reflected.

Duke attended the aforementioned workout only a couple of weeks before announcing his commitment. He posted on instagram in the Virginia Tech football uniform on June 14th, 2021. The commitment post came just eight days later.

When a school decides they want an athlete they’ve been recruiting, they give them a call and the opportunity to mull it over. Duke was different.

“I knew that was where I wanted to spend the next 3-4 years, so I committed on the spot.” Duke spoke of the call from the coaching staff offering him a scholarship.

The last game of the season for Husky Football is coming up November 5th, 2021, against Broad Run High School, a fitting finale for Duke’s last regular season high school game, as Broad Run is a long held rival of Tuscarora, and the game should be well-matched.

Such a grand culmination of Duke’s five years with Tuscarora Football is sure to be an event of great fanfare and excitement, along with high emotions from players, coaches, and students alike.