The rising fifth-year senior has yet to announce where he will play, but will transfer to be closer to his home in Corona, Calif. Connette's mother, Nancy, was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor shortly before Duke's Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Texas A&M.
“First and foremost, our prayers and concerns are with Nancy Connette and her quest for good health,” head coach David Cutcliffe said in a press release. “We thank Brandon for his many contributions to Duke University and our football program."
Because Connette graduated in December with a degree in economics and will pursue a masters degree in Christian studies at his next institution, he will be eligible to play immediately.
“I could not be more appreciative of Coach Cutcliffe for his understanding of this situation,” Connette said in a press release. “Being away from my family during my mother’s illness has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to endure. I’m thankful that Duke University afforded me so many incredible opportunities—academically, athletically and socially – and will always hold my experience here in the highest regard.”
Connette split time under center with Anthony Boone in 2013, appearing in 13 games. Utilized primarily as a short-yardage runner during his first two seasons with the Blue Devils, Connette solidified his role as a passing threat during his redshirt junior season, completing 62.1 percent of his attempts and throwing for 1,212 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also added 14 scores on the ground, setting the program's all-time record with 31 career rushing touchdowns.
It is in the running game where Connette's absence could be felt the most. Without Connette and leading rusher Jela Duncan—who is suspended for the 2014 season due to academic violations—more weight will fall on running backs Josh Snead, Shaquille Powell and Joseph Ajeigbe.
Under center, all eyes will be on redshirt sophomore Thomas Sirk heading into the 2014 campaign. Sirk—also a dual-threat quarterback—was expected to be Boone's backup last season before rupturing his Achilles in offseason workouts. Cutcliffe has favored the two-quarterback system during his six-year tenure in Durham, so Sirk could play a larger role in the Blue Devil offense next fall. Redshirt freshman Parker Boehme and true freshman Nico Pierre will likely be in the mix for the backup quarterback role as well.
Although Duke is losing an important piece of an offense that scored a school-record 459 points in 2013, Connette's departure is more than a football decision. The player who won the Micah Harris Trinity Teammate Award in 2013 for his unselfishness will continue to receive support from his former coaches and teammates as he fights an immense personal battle.
"We want nothing but the best for Brandon—both on the football field and off—and his personal situation is very close to our hearts," Cutcliffe said. "He’s been an integral part of our program over the past four years, and we wish him continued success going forward.”