DURHAM, N.C. – As 1500-plus Duke Blue Devils football fans got the opportunity to meet this year’s edition of the team at Pascal Field House on Saturday, many interacted with the players on a level that they normally wouldn’t get to.
It gave kids and adults alike the chance to get up close and personal while the players signed posters and footballs and took pictures with them.
Redshirt junior quarterback Brandon Connette took it all in and was impressed with the turnout.
“It’s been awesome; it’s been so much fun,” Connette said.
“We enjoy getting to interact with our fans and getting to meet them. They ask us fun questions. We get to ask them fun questions back. It’s just a really fun atmosphere.”
In answering questions about his football past and growing up, and even if it seems a little out of place to talk about anything other than football, the discussion turned to hockey.
Connette is not only a fan, but a player.
In fact, playing hockey was as much a part of his childhood as playing football was, and actually came first in his athletic career.
“It was actually very late,” Connette said of when he started playing football in the seventh grade in Southern California.
“I actually grew up a little bit on the East coast too. I grew up playing hockey. Hockey was my sport. I played that from the time I was six or seven and played it up until high school. I stopped when I really started getting into football.”
With his father Allen growing up in upstate New York and playing hockey and football while he was growing up, he passed on his interest in both sports to his kids.
“Hockey was the first sport he put us into,” Connette continued.
“I learned that originally in Charlotte.”
After moving around a few times in his life, and while living in North Carolina for a short time, it was the Queen City where he learned to play the game before his family moved to California, where he continued to play in the Anaheim area and where he eventually began playing football.
Born in 1991 and having started to play the game just as the Carolina Hurricanes arrived on the scene in the North Carolina, Connette’s NHL team of choice at the time was the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“When I lived in North Carolina, I was actually always a Lightning fan,” Connette said.
“We lived in Florida for a little bit and I always loved the Lightning.”
However, when he moved out West, he fell in love with the Anaheim Ducks.
“I still follow the Ducks today, but I still go to some Carolina Hurricanes games,” he continued.
Though he was upset that the Ducks traded Bobby Ryan, he thinks that they’ll still do well during the upcoming season.
It was clear after talking with him that Connette hasn’t lost touch with the game and provides some insightful commentary on the game.
“Ice hockey is what I love most,” he continued.
With the Ducks scheduled to face off against the Hurricanes on Fri. Nov. 15th at PNC Arena, one would think that Connette will try to be there to cheer them on.
However, that probably won’t happen as the Blue Devils’ kick off against the Miami Hurricanes the next day at Wallace Wade Stadium.
More than likely he will find some time to watch it from afar and follow ‘his’ team on the ice that night – staying in touch with the sport that he learned and played first – the one that helped him to develop the athletic ability and versatility that allows him to lead ‘his’ team on the gridiron now.