The COVID-19 pandemic has sent millions of young people worldwide into endless scrolling, dancing and watching on TikTok, a social media platform where users can share short videos.
Among these TikTok-crazed teenagers are two Duke athletes: Katie Groff and Jacob Monk.
Groff, a freshman defender on the Blue Devil women’s soccer team, and Monk, a sophomore offensive tackle on the football team, have each developed a significant presence on TikTok, with 22,000 and 12,000 followers on the app as of Aug. 30, respectively.
Monk’s time in the spotlight came first. While the Duke football team quarantined at The Washington Duke Inn in mid-July, Monk rallied some of his fellow linemen to make a few videos in the hotel’s hallways. The first TikTok, posted July 14, features Monk and four other linemen dancing across the screen.
The next day, Monk and company posted another “[big boy TikTok],” this time with the group satirizing the lack of attention linemen receive and their dislike for salads. This time, the Duke linemen were the ones in the spotlight, as each TikTok received hundreds of thousands of views.
“I just saw some TikToks and was like, 'Hey, who wants to make one,'” Monk told The Chronicle. “We got as many linemen as we could in the Washington Duke and spent five minutes making one and walked away from my phone, woke up the next morning and it was just blowing up.”
After the overnight success of Monk and the Blue Devil football team’s TikToks, Groff and her teammates got in on the fun too. On July 29, Groff and three teammates dueted (made a side-by-side video of) Monk’s dancing TikTok and went viral themselves, getting more than 260,000 views on their video.
In a tale that is very 2020, Groff and Monk actually met through her duet of his TikTok, and have become friends since then.
“I didn't even know Jacob at the time,” Groff said. “It's been hard to meet people obviously with the pandemic, but I guess TikTok is the way to do that. I just thought it'd be fun if my class duetted that. He commented on it and then we kind of met each other through that comment.”
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The day after the duet with Monk, Groff and fellow Blue Devil women’s soccer freshman Nicole Chico filmed a TikTok that exploded in popularity. Donning their Duke blue uniforms, the duo got nearly two million views for their dancing video filmed in the team’s locker room.
As linemen, Monk and his TikTok supporting cast rarely receive the recognition that their teammates at quarterback, running back or wide receiver get, which made their moment of glory all the sweeter.
“I saw a couple days after [the linemen TikToks], the wide receivers tried to make one and it did not blow up like ours,” Monk said. “So it made us feel good that we got the spotlight and they didn't for once.”
Groff and Chico’s teammates also expressed some playful envy at their viral post.
“They didn't say [they were] jealous, but I think some of them jokingly were like, 'Oh, I could blow up too,'” Groff said. “They want to see if it's just because I posted the video, it's not like me [specifically], but if it had been the same video on their account, they would have gotten famous. So not jealous, but almost want to be competitive about it.”
Monk’s teammates were not the only ones who saw the TikToks. The Duke football staff caught wind of the videos and ribbing ensued.
“The day after it got viral, all we heard was, 'Oh, here comes the viral crew walking in,'” Monk said. “They gave us a lot of crap for it—not a lot of crap, but just playing around with us.”
Groff and her teammates were lucky enough to escape teasing from their coaches. As to why, she offered a simple explanation.
“I don't think they know how to work TikTok,” Groff said.