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Why We Should Have Known Chris Rwabukamba Earlier

Photo by Ian Soileau/The Chronicle

If you're a Duke fan, the name Chris Rwabukamba should ring a bell. You might not have been able to watch Duke's 10-7 win over Vanderbilt, but you could have heard radio announcers attempt to pronounce Rwabukamba's name after he picked off Mackenzi Adams' pass with 38 seconds left to seal the Duke win. Then you might have asked: "Wait, who?" And that question would have been perfectly legitimate.

Rwabukamba (that's RUB-uh-come-buh, if parlor games fascinate you) was only in the game for injured cornerback Leon Wright. It was the sophomore's first career interception. He has seven tackles on the season. The fact that Rwabukamba was even in was probably more indicative of bad news for Blue Devil fans—when he plays in the fourth quarter, it means someone is hurt.

Of course, Rwabukamba earned Sunday headlines for his clutch play. But it was his form—process over product—that impressed David Cutcliffe most.

"If you knew him, you would like him even better," he said Tuesday. "What a great young man, and he did exactly what he was coached to do. He played technique, stayed in position. He said this in the interview—[President Richard Brodhead] is the one who told me he heard it on the radio—'I saw the ball and went up and caught the ball at the highest point, just like I was coached to do.' Now how exciting is that?... It's gratifying that a guy who's a backup for us is listening and prepared well enough to go in and play."

But the media—let alone Duke fans—should have spotted Rwabukamba earlier for two reasons: one on merit, the other for the sake of the reporter.

Rwabukamba was named the team's Most Improved Defensive Player after Cutcliffe's spring practice sessions. And if that's not a reason to write a story about the kid—OK, it's probably not—then his background just might be.

Born in Rwanda, Rwabukamba played high school football in Ontario, Canada, where he also lettered in basketball and track and field. Reporters love to write these types of stories, and Cutcliffe gave a perfect lead quote for any story-in-the-making today.

"This is a young man from Rwanda who moved to Canada, got an opportunity to play football and is at Duke University, going to school and playing football," he said. "How cool is that? That in itself fires me up. I'm having individual meetings with all of these guys and the meeting with Chris was great to hear all the way back to his past, from Rwanda to Canada to the United States.

"See, I got y'all with that one! Put you right back in your chairs."

And with the bevy of reporters churning out another story in their minds, Cutcliffe walked out from behind his lectern to signify the end of his weekly press conference. No politics this week—but he assured me afterward that his effort to educate reporters on world affairs would resume next Tuesday.


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