On a day like so many in the friendship of Virgil Williams and Dionte McDuffy, the two were playing “Madden” at Virgil’s house last winter when McDuffy told his former Evangel teammate he was looking to transfer.
McDuffy had begun his college career at South Alabama. Williams had just finished his third season at Southern.
But before Williams could begin selling McDuffy on a reunion in Baton Rouge, Williams said McDuffy’s phone rang.
“He told me it was coach Germany calling,” Williams said, referring to Southern assistant Chad Germany. “It just so happened that coach Germany called him right after he told me.”
By the time Williams returned to Southern after Christmas break, McDuffy had transferred from South Alabama and was set to join him in the SU backfield.
McDuffy went through spring practice with the Jaguars as a January enrollee, showing enough promise to earn a spot atop the depth chart at free safety entering preseason camp.
So when Williams looks to his right this season, the preseason All-Southwestern Athletic Conference cornerback could very well see the friend he first called a teammate during AAU basketball.
“It’s fun playing with someone you came up playing with,” McDuffy, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore, said of Williams. “He’s like a brother to me.”
The timing of McDuffy’s arrival at Southern couldn’t have been much better.
Southern lost starting safeties Levi Jackson and D’Mekus Cook Rogers from last year, making the middle of the defensive backfield the most inexperienced area of an otherwise veteran defense.
McDuffy’s camp got off to a rocky start when he failed to pass Thursday’s conditioning test. But coach Dawson Odums said the newcomer will be expected to make a big impact.
“You can see he’s a special, talented kid,” Odums said. “We’re just waiting on him to get his conditioning up to par.”
Williams said McDuffy can make an impact with his big hits and relentless motor.
“He’s flying around, always around the ball,” Williams said. “He loves contact. He’s a great hitter and great competitor. He loves to win.” He loves the game.”
McDuffy not only loves to win, he also has proven he knows how.
His final three seasons at Evangel, McDuffy helped the Eagles to two Class 2A state championships and one runner-up finish. He and Williams were teammates on the first of those state championship teams. The year after Williams signed with Southern, McDuffy helped Evangel to the second state title and earned all-state honors as a defensive back.
McDuffy said he left South Alabama because he wanted to get closer to home.
“I went and talked to my defensive coordinator from high school, and he called around to a few people,” McDuffy said. “He asked me if I remembered coach Germany and told me (Germany) was going to give me a call that night.”
Germany was the coach at Capitol when Evangel faced the Lions in the 2009 and 2010 playoffs.
“When I got the phone call, I was real excited about coming to Southern and getting the opportunity to play with a close brother of mine,” McDuffy said.