Spencer Romine hears what people say about the football team, he just doesn't pay much attention to them.
He doesn't have the time.
Romine is not only the starting quarterback for Duke, but also an aspiring doctor. Any athlete can appreciate the time commitment involved in the former, and most students shudder at the idea of the latter.
Romine, though, takes his dual role in stride. As the Blue Devils' first quarterback in the past few years to be named the starter well before the season begins, he has dealt with the critics.
"I had a teacher last year who was pretty much ragging on us," Romine said. "I came in after we won [against Army], and I was the quarterback in that game, and he apologized."
On a squad that struggled most of last year, the performance of the redshirt freshman caused more than just loose-tongued professors to change their tunes. The young quarterback, who started the season as a third stringer, completed 9-of-11 second-half passes in the Blue Devils' 20-17 win against Army, snapping a 15-game losing streak.
The next week, Romine put any talk of flukes to rest by completing 12-of-20 passes as the Blue Devils rolled over Navy, 26-17.
Unfortunately for Duke, the season was not to continue on this high note-Romine injured his groin and hip the next week against Maryland and sat out two games. Upon his return to the starting role against Clemson, Romine turned his ankle and did not play for the rest of the year.
This year, Romine enjoys the increased respect his teammates give him as the starting quarterback.
"[I like] walking into the huddle and hearing guys saying, 'Come on, let's do this. You're the man, let's go,'" Romine said. "The biggest difference [that comes with being the starting quarterback] is the guys, and how they treat you."
That difference in treatment, both teammates and coaches say, has been earned. Coach Fred Goldsmith said that he had a lot of confidence in the few games Romine played last year, and that confidence has returned this season. Guard Lennie Friedman agreed.
"Spencer's a real intelligent kid," Friedman said. "He's got a mastery of the offense a lot better than he did last year.... He's a lot more confident with what he's doing."
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Intelligence is one characteristic that most people would use to describe the other Spencer Romine-the one that sits in the classroom that most fans don't see. It was not just football that brought the quarterback to the University.
"My reason for being here," Romine said, "is to become a doctor."
Goldsmith thinks he made the right choice when picking Duke.
"There's not a better school in America for anybody to come to that wants to be a doctor," Goldsmith said. "In 20 years, we've averaged at least one guy going to med school per year."
Romine's plans lie not in sports medicine, which might seem appropriate after last year's numerous injuries, but rather in pediatrics. His mother still tells Spencer stories about himself at age five, when he would sit in church treating the kids next to him as if he was 30.
The goal of ascending to medical school leaves many undergraduates with no free time and near nervous breakdowns. Romine, however, somehow manages to balance his pre-med class schedule with his already full football schedule.
His classes are rigorous by any standards, taking physics, biology, psychology and an art history class this semester.
Despite these challenges, his grades remain top-notch. He has received only two grades less than an 'A' during his Duke career-'B+'s' in two semesters of Organic chemistry.
Such success made him a natural choice for the Mike Suglia Award, given to the team's top academic sophomore. Romine professed a disappointment, however, in those two lower grades.
"I still want to make an 'A' in everything I do," he said.
How can Romine find the time and energy to do it all? How could anyone head a Division-I football team and stay on track for medical school at the same time?
"You have to keep a balance with it, just like anything else," he said. "Football is a big stress reliever, and sports, as a whole, is a big stress reliever."
Romine's scheduled day of classes, practices and meals at the training table usually ends around 8 p.m. He studies-both for classes and upcoming games-from 8:30 to midnight, goes to bed and wakes up again at about eight in the morning. When asked about free time, though, he could only come up with one pastime: sleep.
The lack of free time does not seem to be a problem for Duke's starting quarterback. Somewhere in all the full days, tough classes and physical practices, Spencer Romine has found his element.
"I think I can pull if off," he said. "I just can't be just a regular student. I can't go out when everybody else is going out and do the things other people do. But that's alright. I made a commitment to play football and to be academically sound. I can't imagine myself doing it any other way."