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Keith Duncan Aiming to Reclaim His Spot

April 5, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Keith Duncan delivered one of the biggest kicks in Hawkeye history. Then, he was benched.

Iowa’s fourth-year junior has designs on reclaiming his starting position this offseason. This month of spring football could go a long way in determining if he will.

He’s traveled an unusual path, to be sure. He won the No. 1 job as a true freshman in 2016. His 33-yard field goal as time expired sealed a 14-13 upset of third-ranked and previously unbeaten Michigan.

Fans poured onto the Kinnick Stadium field, mobbing he and his teammates. He was on top of the Hawkeye world.

Duncan connected on nine of 11 field-goal attempts that season. The walk-on from North Carolina seemed destined to be a four-year starter.

Behind the scenes, Miguel Recinos had other ideas. He worked tirelessly on improving and won the job before the ’17 season. He held onto the gig last year and earned honorable mention all-Big Ten honors.

Duncan red shirted two year ago. He did not see the field as Recinos’ backup in ’18.

That scenario frequently paves the way for transferring in today’s college football landscape. And while begrudging others that right is wrong, it says something about Duncan that he stuck it out.

His admiration for Iowa fans played into his decision to stay.

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“You kind of have to be mature about it is the advice I got from teammates and coaches. It tells a lot about you, that situation that you’re in. So, I wanted to make the best of it,” Duncan said.

Even though he failed to win the position the last two years, he continued competing with confidence. He believed in his ability.

“I wouldn’t say doubt ever crept in because I continued to get better. My percentages got better. It’s just Miguel, he was amazing. He’s a great kicker. I wish him the best in the NFL,” Duncan said.

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“But I knew I had the ability. It was just a matter of when it would be my opportunity and when can I take control of that opportunity.”

It’s here. He’s competing with fellow junior Caleb Shudak this spring. Lucas Amaya, an incoming freshman walk-on from Wisconsin, will join the fray upon his arrival this summer.

Duncan has been in this situation three times already. When he arrived as a freshman, there were five other candidates for the starting kicker job.

“It’s always been a competition and that’s what you have to look at it as. You have to look at every year as a competition. Every year you know it’s going to be a tight competition and the coaches will give you a fair opportunity,” he said.

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Duncan still has his work cut out for him. Shudak begins the spring atop the depth chart. It’s a friendly competition.

“Me and Caleb are great friends,” Duncan said. “The more you’re close to your competition, the better friends you are for your competition, the better the team is going to be.”

They began kicking “live” in team settings this week. Duncan said he and Shudak have been doing well.

“I feel confident in both of us, to be honest. I think (special teams) coach (LeVar) Woods would say the same. It’s a great competition all around. He’s a great kid,” Duncan said.

Duncan has added leg strength since we last saw him in a game. He’s improved height on his kicks and consistency on his attempts.

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