Learning From a Hall of Famer

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By Tim Miguel/Cal Athletics
Posted Aug 4, 2017
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017 BearInsider.com


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Former NFL QB Brett Favre and Cal WR Jordan Duncan -Photo by calbears.com
The tornado ripped through Oak Grove, Miss., including the practice facility for the Oak Grove High School football team. Everything from jerseys to weights were found in neighboring towns.
Jordan Duncan, a sophomore wide receiver on the California football team, was getting ready to begin his sophomore season at the school when the tornado hit. His squad had just missed the playoffs the year before, but with all its key players returning, the 2013 season was supposed to be the year.
 
Although Mother Nature tried to derail those hopes, Duncan and the rest of his teammates used the natural disaster as a motivator to restore pride in their town, and they went on to bring the first state championship home to Oak Grove that year.
 
Tornados aside, the man calling the plays as offensive coordinator for Oak Grove that year also played a big part in making it a memorable season – NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre.
 
Making regular appearances at team practices at Oak Grove High prior to his two-year stint as offensive coordinator during Duncan's first two prep seasons, Favre, a Mississippi native, threw some passes around for fun in getting to know the players. The fact that his daughter was a member of the volleyball team may have also had something to do with his desire to become more involved with the football program. 
 
"He treated everybody with respect, just a great guy all around," Duncan said. "He's a great guy who we looked at like he was one of us. Yes, we all knew who he was and his fame, but the way he was so humble around us, you'd never know by his personality that he is a Hall of Fame quarterback.
 
"I was star struck the first time I met him, but he doesn't try to intimidate you at all. He's just a normal guy. He has the best jokes. His attitude and personality attracted people to him. He brought so much positive energy. He was really one of us."
 
Duncan smiled when he remembered the night they won the state championship. He looked at Favre and said, "Brett, we did it." Favre's response with a chuckle was, "It's about time."
 
Favre joined the coaching staff prior to Duncan's freshman season in 2012, and Duncan had the pleasure of playing for Favre that year as the first freshman in school history to be promoted to the varsity squad.
 
The Super Bowl champion had nothing but good things to say about his time being a mentor for Duncan.
 
"When Jordan was a ninth grader, we decided to bring him up to play with the varsity," Favre said. "Not because he was the biggest, fastest or the strongest but because he ran the best routes, knew what to do and, most importantly, caught the ball. He is a very bright kid in school and has a high football IQ. I am not surprised of anything Jordan achieves. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of coaching and being a part of a state championship. Seeing Jordan and several others play at the next level gives me a sense of accomplishment that is similar but also different than when I was a player. Jordan has tremendous potential and work ethic, and I'll take that type of kid on my team any day."
 
The first game they competed together was a memorable one in 2012. Getting off the bus, Duncan remembers seeing ESPN satellite trucks because the network televised Favre's high school coaching debut.
 
ESPN's presence was only part of what made Duncan's first prep game so memorable.
 
"The second play of the game, I scored my first high school touchdown, which was also his first touchdown as our OC," Duncan said. "That was big. That night, I was on the highlights on ESPN. All my friends were telling me I was on TV. I didn't believe them. That first game so many people came, and we won big. Scoring my first touchdown on ESPN, that was awesome."
 
Following the state championship victory in 2013, Favre stepped down as the team's offensive coordinator. Despite being depressed about the Hall of Famer's departure, Favre left a lasting impact and instilled ideals that Duncan uses today when he competes for the Golden Bears.
 
"He told me that I had the potential to do what I wanted to do if I put my mind to it," Duncan said. "Nobody can stop me but me. He gave me the confidence to know that I can control my own destiny. He taught me to pay attention to the details and to keep grinding. He would get on us about the smallest things, and he held everybody accountable, but that's what we needed and that brought us together."
 
After Favre left the team, Duncan raised the bar to the level his former offensive coordinator expected of him. He took it upon himself to not let the culture within his high school program change from the championship-winning precedent Favre helped create.
 
Duncan is trying to set that same tone now for the Bears, and raise the bar again to help Cal attain the type of success he achieved in high school.
 
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