To those who knew him, Fayetteville's Maurice “Mo” Corders was some kind of football player.

And he was as warm-hearted a guy as the Duke community ever had. So it was especially difficult to lose Maurice, once a Duke teammate and community leader, when he passed away July 23, 2014 at the age of 59.

It is fitting that we remember Maurice on the eve of Duke Football's 2014 opening game on Saturday. Maurice Corders, the Duke football player, is a great story. Long before the advent of rating high football prospects with the now-familiar 4-star and 5-star rating system, Maurice would easily have been considered Duke's first five-star prospect at defensive tackle and was, in any case, one of Duke's first African-American football players, when he was highly recruited to come to Duke from Fayetteville E. E. Smith High School in 1972. As good as our incoming recruiting class was that year—a class that included three players who started at quarterback for Duke over the next four years—Maurice Corders was at the top of that class, a consensus High School All American, one who had scholarship offers from colleges all over America, and chose to join, amid great fanfare, a Duke program that was 6-5 the year before Corders arrived. At 6'6" and 270 lbs, Mo was a force. With him, the Devils mounted strong efforts against Alabama, Washington, and Stanford in 1972, Tennessee and South Carolina in '73, and Southern California and Florida in '75, including a win over the Tar Heels at Wallace Wade in '73. Corders’ arrival symbolized, for a time, the return of a once-storied football program at Duke.

Yet for all of Maurice's fame on the gridiron, he became legendary at Duke over a 35-year career here for rising to become the head of security at Duke University Medical Center and for having perhaps the biggest smile in the Duke community. Known to his friends as "the Gentle Giant," Maurice Corders displayed a gentle nature and a quick smile for everyone he passed on a sidewalk, on the Quad or in the halls. He's also remembered as being one of the founding members of the Duke Varsity Club, as well as for his unflinching strength in the face of disability. In his last years, Maurice Corders lost mobility to illness, yet he never lost his smile.

His legacy endures.

John Bussian graduated with Mr. Corders from Duke in '76 and has served as volunteer legal counsel to The Chronicle since 1992.