The NFL Draft may have come and gone without any Duke products hearing their name called, but two former Blue Devils have already signed with professional squads.
Running back Mataeo Durant and cornerback Josh Blackwell reportedly signed shortly after the draft's conclusion Saturday evening with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Durant's landing spot while Pro Football Network's Aaron Wilson broke news of Blackwell's deal with Philadelphia.
Durant, a First Team All-ACC selection in 2021 with the Blue Devils, spent four years in Durham under former head coach David Cutcliffe. The Plum Branch, S.C., native built on a strong junior season by breaking out as the feature back in his senior campaign, recording a school single-game record of 255 rushing yards to go along with three touchdowns in Duke's season-opening loss at Charlotte. By the end of the season, Durant had rewritten the school's record book, setting a new single-season mark with 1,241 rushing yards to his name.
Blackwell, on the other hand, saw his senior season cut short in 2020 with a season-ending knee injury before returning to full health as a graduate student in 2021. He enjoyed a successful final season at Duke, starting in all but one of the team's 12 games and proving himself as a true NFL talent on a struggling Blue Devil defense.
Blackwell and Durant both impressed at March's Pro Day, with the cornerback posting a speedy 4.33-second 40-yard dash and his teammate clocking in at 4.38 seconds in the event. Nine former Blue Devils participated in Pro Day, a number of whom could also find themselves signing similar deals as undrafted free agents in the coming days. Cornerback Leonard Johnson, long snapper John Taylor and center Jack Wohlabaugh are each prime candidates to join NFL squads before the week is up.
This is a developing story. Check back here for more updates.
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Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.