Thomas Sirk will complete his college football career – one that’s seen historic accomplishments intertwined with crushing injuries – at a school other than Duke.
The 6-4 quarterback, who has suffered three torn Achilles tendons since enrolling at Duke in January 2012, plans to transfer for his final season of eligibility.
Named co-Most Valuable Player of the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl when he led the Blue Devils to their first bowl win since 1961, Sirk already has his Duke degree and will be eligible to play this season at the school where he transfers.
“I am beyond thankful for my time spent at Duke University,” Sirk said. “I will never take for granted the relationships I’ve built with the entire Duke community, especially my teammates and coaches. The men in the locker room have become my family over the course of five years, and calling them teammates would be an understatement.”
Duke’s release restricts Sirk from transferring to another ACC school and also prevents him from landing at nonconference schools the Blue Devils will play this fall – Army, Baylor, N.C. Central and Northwestern.
Regardless, he’ll leave with Duke coach David Cutcliffe’s blessing and admiration.
“We are 100 percent supportive of Thomas and his decision to complete his eligibility at another school,” Cutcliffe said. “I’ve said it many times before: Thomas is an incredible young man. He’s conscientious, dedicated and what I would consider the ultimate teammate due to his selflessness and leadership qualities. Thomas loves Duke. He and I have had great discussion regarding this decision, and his love for this university and everything it represents is what made this decision so difficult for him.”
Sirk played only two healthy seasons at Duke, spending 2014 as the backup to Anthony Boone and 2015 as the Blue Devils starter. But he still established two school records.
After twice tearing his left Achilles tendon last year – in February and August – he sat out the season while recovering from the surgeries. Redshirt freshman Daniel Jones became Duke’s starting quarterback. Even though the Blue Devils went 4-8 overall and 1-7 in the ACC, Jones completed 62.8 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,836 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Jones threw eight interceptions in his first five games and one over the final seven.
That improvement has him Duke’s clear No. 1 quarterback as the Blue Devils go through spring practice this month, which Cutcliffe has often stated.
Sirk has been at Duke’s spring practices but is not taking part in contact drills. Because of his numerous injuries, the NCAA granted him a sixth season of eligibility in November that allows him to play in the 2017 season.
Sirk is on track to receive a master’s degree in liberal studies from Duke this spring. He received an undergraduate degree from Duke in political science last May.
But, with Duke building its offense around Jones, Sirk is saying goodbye to the school and the football program he loves.
“I am grateful that Coach Cutcliffe believed in me to play quarterback at the next level when not very many people did,” Sirk said.
Sirk took a healthy redshirt in 2012 before suffering his first torn Achilles tendon during spring practice in 2013. He had surgery and sat out the 2013 season.
In 2014, he played extensively in Duke’s short-yardage packages, rushing for a team-best eight touchdowns as Duke went 9-4 and played in the Sun Bowl.
As the starter in 2015, Sirk again rushed for eight touchdowns while leading the Blue Devils in rushing with 803 yards. He also passed for 2,625 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
In Duke’s 44-41 overtime win over Indiana in the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl, Sirk threw for 163 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 155 yards, a Duke bowl game record, and two touchdowns.
Sirk also set a Duke record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception to begin a career with 93.