DeCock: When it comes to good news, 'We're due,' Duke’s Cutcliffe says

ldecock@newsobserver.comJuly 19, 2012 

— There are times, David Cutcliffe admits, when he has searched his soul and wondered if he will ever catch a break.

In his four seasons at Duke, one misfortune has followed another, with this summer’s tragic accident that critically injured wide receiver Blair Holliday the gravest blow of all.

“Obviously, I’ve laid there and thought deeply,” Cutcliffe said Thursday. “We all get into this cycle of ‘Why me, Lord?’ But it’s not about me or us or Duke football.”

More than two weeks after the July 4 jet-ski collision with teammate Jamison Crowder, Holliday remains in intensive care at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. The Blue Devils could desperately use some good news on Holliday, and it’s safe to say they’re overdue in that department.

Every time it looks like the Blue Devils are ready to turn a corner, something goes wrong. Some of it, like an embarrassing series of arrests, is self-inflicted. But much of it is harder to comprehend, like the seemingly endless run of injuries – linebacker Kelby Brown tearing his ACL not once but twice – or a team-wide epidemic of swine flu.

“Swine flu! If y’all remember that,” Cutcliffe said. “Lord have mercy.”

It never seems to end: While the Blue Devils were struggling to comprehend the gravity of Holliday’s situation, Braxton Deaver, a projected starter at tight end, fractured his knee cap and is out indefinitely.

With Holliday, what Duke’s football program faces now is completely different. All it has in common with what has come before is bad fortune.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re all around here saying, ‘We’re due some good breaks.’ ”

This was no easy task to begin with, turning around a football program that has been to two bowl games in 51 years, recovering from decades of atrophy and apathy, without this additional misfortune heaped upon it. Cutcliffe could be forgiven for wondering if luck would ever break his way.

(Some of this predates Cutcliffe: Micah Harris, a starting defensive lineman, was killed in a car accident on I-85 during the summer of 2004, a tragedy that set the program back years.)

Holliday’s situation overshadows everything else, and while the family has requested privacy regarding his condition, Cutcliffe told the crowd at Thursday’s annual Pigskin Preview that a long road remains ahead.

“He’s a tough youngster and he’s fighting hard,” Cutcliffe told the crowd, “but he has a huge fight in front of him.”

Sitting a few seats down from Cutcliffe, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora listened intently. He knows that kind of sadness all too well.

During his remarks Thursday, Fedora mentioned one of his former players, Artrell Woods, an Oklahoma State wide receiver who returned to the field three years after breaking his back in a weightlifting accident. At Southern Mississippi in 2010, three of Fedora’s players were shot during a fight at a night club, leaving one paralyzed.

“I just told David, I don’t know what it is, but something good will come out of this situation,” Fedora said. “I hope it’s with that young man. For us, our football team became a much more mature team, a much closer team. The team chemistry was incredible, which is why we won a conference championship last year. I firmly believe that. So there will be something good that comes out of that.”

At this point, Cutcliffe can only hope so. With Holliday facing a long recovery, there’s no better time for the Blue Devils to get some good news for a change.

DeCock:, (919) 829-8947, Twitter: @LukeDeCock

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