Q&A: 3-year Duke football captain reflects on Senior Bowl experience, preparation for NFL Draft

DeWayne Carter (90) and his teammates embrace ahead of Duke's December 2023 Birmingham Bowl win.
DeWayne Carter (90) and his teammates embrace ahead of Duke's December 2023 Birmingham Bowl win.

Over the last five years, DeWayne Carter became synonymous with Duke football, as the defensive tackle served as the first three-time captain in program history. The veteran was excellent on the field, garnering All-ACC honors in three separate seasons while anchoring tough Blue Devil defenses up front his redshirt junior and senior years. As a result, Carter was selected to participate in the Reese’s Senior Bowl, an event showcasing some of the top seniors in college football in front of numerous NFL scouts and coaches. 

The Chronicle spoke with Carter to ask him about his experience in Mobile, Ala., and his plans between now and the NFL Draft in late April. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

The Chronicle: To start off, what were the goals you set for yourselves before the Senior Bowl?

DeWayne Carter: For me, heading out there my first goal was to be myself, not try to be a different player or be somebody else, or emulate any pro guys or anything like that. Just me sticking to who I was and what initially got me there and got me noticed and all that stuff and stick to my guns, and I think I did that. And also to prove myself right, that I am who I say I am, that I’m a high-caliber player and I deserve to be there. I think I was successful in doing both those things.

TC: How do you think Duke uniquely prepared you for this experience?

DC: That smart-guy stereotype gets carried everywhere. No matter what sport you’re in, what field you’re in, people find out you go to Duke so you automatically get the smart label, you’re expected to pick things up faster. You have to learn things faster, articulate better, there’s all these different things that a lot of guys can’t do. So I just realized going to a place like Duke, I was a step ahead, from coursework to networking and relationships, and really a big part of this whole thing was interviews, too. So for me, I interviewed probably one of the best, if not the best. All the feedback I got from my agency continues to speak to that. 

As well as on the football side, we learn the whole defense at Duke, it wasn’t like you would learn your position. I was taught everything, from coverages to the linebacker position, I wasn’t just a D-lineman. I learned a whole defense of how things work and how they were supposed to fit and everything else. So when I went into interviews and these practices learning new things, it was kind of just me also having another step ahead on everybody else.

TC: Obviously, you had some NFL guys coaching you and your position group, can you talk about what that experience was like?

DC: My position group, it was cool, I was coached by coach Austin Clark from the Miami Dolphins and he was awesome. We were supposed to have two coaches actually, but the other one took a job at Texas like a week before the game and he ended up coming, but our main coach was Clark. He just taught us so much ball, he told us at the beginning of the week, he was like “I’m not here to teach you how to play football, you know how to do that. I’m not here to change your game. A couple things I see here and there I may critique you a little bit, but it’s all to help you showcase who you are as a player and help you put your best foot forward.” 

He taught us a lot, and you can tell that he loves the game. That’s pretty cool because at every level I’ve realized that football is the same, just with older people and more money. That’s the best way to describe it. 

TC: Going with that, can you share some lessons you learned not from your coach, but the other players in your position group?

DC: I learned a lot about other people’s preparation, how they went about their business, how they practice, how they learn, what makes them great. I’m always trying to learn, so obviously stuff like that is an opportunity to take little things here and there from other people and implement it into my own game, and help ultimately make me a better player. 

TC: Can you share what the most exciting part of the Senior Bowl was for you? 

DC: The competition, that was it. Every day was like a game because as you can tell, practice is like the most important thing. Everyone is out there watching everyone compete and you go out with that game mindset every single day — you should every day in normal practice as well — but it’s just different. It’s like your first step to ultimately reaching your goal which is the NFL, and it’s in front of all these scouts. You’re in front of the best of the best people in college football at the time, so it was crazy. But it was just the competition, just competing, I think that was the coolest thing for me. 

TC: How do you think you performed as a whole, both on and off the field? 

DC: Yeah, I think I put together a solid week at the end of the day. Obviously, there’s always stuff you can clean up, stuff I wish I could have done better, but at the end of the day I put together a solid three days and I did what I was supposed to do in ultimately helping myself become a more attractive draft prospect. And hopefully, it will continue to show, and then at the Combine, I get another shot to do the same thing. 

TC: Can you share something that was maybe a surprise or unexpected when you got there?

DC: Everyone is always saying at this level, football is a business, it’s a billion-dollar industry of course, but you don’t really understand the business piece as a whole until you’re immersed in it. For me, the interviews and everything else, it was a real-deal interview. You’re sitting down in front of executives and general managers, a lot of big shots who ultimately determine whether you get drafted, what you get paid, all that different stuff. So it was crazy as far as getting to experience the real business aspect of the NFL and how it can either help or hurt you. 

TC: How will this week impact your pre-draft process going forward up until April?

DC: I’m having to shift now, I’m training to basically become a track runner and do a lot of agility drills now for the next couple weeks until the Combine. Before, I was really working position-specific football work — technique stuff — and that will continue, but for the most part, I’m trying to run as fast as I can, do these drills to the best of my ability and get fast times and a lot of just little things and edges that you can find along the way in order to continue to improve and get the best time that you can. 

TC: Finally, just some words of wisdom to pass back to your former teammates at Duke. What is the biggest thing you learned at the Senior Bowl and what do you want to pass along to the younger guys?

DC: Be you. Wherever you are at this point in time, continue to do that. Also be willing to learn and listen, everything in those interviews is something we learned at Duke. As long as you do those three specific things I just listed, I think you’ll be alright and I know what we have in that locker room at Duke. 


Share and discuss “Q&A: 3-year Duke football captain reflects on Senior Bowl experience, preparation for NFL Draft” on social media.