As the current Duke football team works to continue its recent run of success, two of the players who helped turn the program around earlier this decade are dealing with a sad reality of football.
Jeremy Cash, who was the ACC defensive player of the year as a safety at Duke in 2015, suffered a season-ending knee injury while playing for the Arizona Cardinals in an exhibition game with the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night. The Cardinals placed him on the waived/injury list on Monday.
Cash’s injury comes two weeks after cornerback Ross Cockrell, Cash’s former Duke teammate, suffered a season-ending leg injury while practicing with the Carolina Panthers at training camp in Spartanburg, S.C. The injury was so severe that Panthers coach Ron Rivera canceled the rest of practice that day.
Cockrell and Cash started together in Duke’s defensive backfield at Duke in 2013, when the Blue Devils posted their first winning season since 1994 and won the school’s only ACC Coastal Division title.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe said on Monday that he’s spoken with both of his former players since their injuries.
“They are both warriors,” Cutcliffe said. “Very disappointed, very determined to rehab and become better than before. My reminder to both was that they have built something inside of themselves far greater than anything external they might face.”
The injuries to both players were cruel twists of fate.
Cockrell signed with the Panthers in the offseason, returning to his hometown where he starred at Charlotte Latin School prior to Duke. But before he could appear in a game, he broke his leg in practice.
Cash signed as a free agent linebacker with the Cardinals. Earlier Saturday night, he’d had recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, the kind of play that greatly increases the chances for a player in his situation to make the 53-man regular-season roster.
Now, while Duke aims to make a bowl game for the sixth time in seven seasons, Cockrell and Cash will miss the 2018 season while rehabilitating injuries.