Charlotte holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Blue Devils.

That is where Duke played, and lost, its first bowl game in almost two decades last year. The Blue Devils fell 48-34 to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in a contest that many Duke players believe they should have won.

But Charlotte has also served as a recruiting hotspot for head coach David Cutcliffe, as 20 Blue Devils hail from within 30 miles of the city's center. To them, Charlotte is not the site of a crushing loss, it is their hometown.

"I’ve always enjoyed recruiting Charlotte, and we’ve gone down there and struck gold," Cutcliffe said. "I believe we have seven or eight Charlotte area players starting in this game."

The Queen City has become a pipeline for Duke, and Cutcliffe has spent the past five years funneling talented prospects from in and around the city to Durham. Cutcliffe's recruiting work in Charlotte has paid dividends, especially this season.

Wide receiver Jamison Crowder hails from Monroe, N.C., just outside of Charlotte. The junior broke Duke's single season record for receptions this year with 88, and stands just 19 yards shy of breaking the single season record for receiving yards. Crowder earned All-ACC first team honors as result of his record-setting season.

Linebacker Kelby Brown and cornerback Ross Cockrell are also from the Charlotte area and both were named first-team All-ACC as well. Brown averages 9.2 tackles per game, the second highest total in the conference, and Cockrell holds Duke's all-time record for passes defended in a career with 53.

For Crowder, Brown, Cockrell and the rest of the Charlotte natives, this weekend will provide a rare chance to play in their own backyard. It also provides a chance for friends and family of the players to watch a Duke game closer to home. Each Blue Devil is allotted six tickets to give out to relatives and friends, but for some that may not be enough.

"I’ve had at least 50 people ask me for tickets," tight end Braxton Deaver said. "I only get six. I can’t accommodate everybody.”

For Deaver, the location of the game and the extra attention from close friends and family puts added pressure on his shoulders. But that doesn't seem to be a problem for the redshirt junior.

“My want to do well for my friends and family is an advantage to me. It helps me play better," Deaver said. "It is pressure, but I like to say that pressure makes diamonds."

But for the veteran players from the Charlotte area, the return home means more than just a chance to play in front of friends and family.

When Cutcliffe came calling in Charlotte five years ago to sign this year's senior class, Duke football did not have a powerful brand name.

"Not a lot of people had heard of Duke football," Cockrell said. "To be honest, I hadn’t heard about Duke football either until Coach Cut started recruiting me."

Now that the Blue Devils have risen to the top of the ACC Coastal Division and established a reputation as a successful football program, this weekend's trip will allow the Charlotte natives to return home as part of North Carolina's winningest football program in 2013. Duke football was a mystery to Charlotte natives five years ago, but now the city has hosted the Blue Devils in postseason matchups two years in a row. Those players returning home this weekend do so as division champs, validating their decision to follow Cutcliffe to Durham all those years ago.

“I caught a little bit of slack for [choosing Duke]," Cockrell said. "But I believed in what Coach Cut was doing here, and I believed in the people that came here with me. As a class, I knew we were going to do something special.”

When Cutcliffe leads his squad into Saturday's matchup with the Seminoles, and when he recruits in the Charlotte area in years to come, his message about Duke football will no longer be the first time players have ever heard about the program.

"I’m thrilled for Ross and all of those guys," Cutcliffe said. "I think they know who we are now down there, which is a great thing.”