Duke Now

Gift wrapping just one of many skills for Duke football

The Blue Devils wrap presents Dec. 16 for the shoebox gift wrapping project, which benefits the Durham parks and recreation department.
The Blue Devils wrap presents Dec. 16 for the shoebox gift wrapping project, which benefits the Durham parks and recreation department. lkeeley@newsobserver.com

With the year-round grind major college football requires, it can be hard to find time for a little fun.

“College football is hard work. Real hard work,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said. “Sometimes, it has to be fun. And when do you really do that?”

There’s no time like the holidays.

Much like the basketball team savors its break from classes and ability to concentrate just on sports, the football team does, too. Preseason camp is busier (and running through second session of summer school), but the bowl practice period does offer true downtime. There will be a wiffle ball home run contest to get in the proper spirit for the Dec. 26 Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium later this week. And Wednesday, the Blue Devils wrapped presents for the shoebox gift wrapping project, which benefits the Durham parks and recreation department. The coaches’ wives buy the supplies, and the players fill Nike shoeboxes with gifts for local kids. And then they wrap said gifts.

“It’s fun to see them do something like that together,” Cutcliffe said. “They dive in, they’re down there looking at each other, who can wrap, who can’t.”

Ross Cockrell still holds the title of worst gift wrapper in Cutcliffe’s book (luckily the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-year cornerback has other gifts). There were no obvious struggles this year, as even the self-proclaimed “gift bag” guys like Max McCaffrey did a passable job.

Gift-wrapping is just one of the life skills Cutcliffe likes to bestow upon his players. Past projects have included planting shrubs and carving pumpkins. There is life after football, after all. That’s an idea that’s even more real to seniors like McCaffrey.

“After the Wake game it kind of hit me. Man, this is it,” McCaffrey said. “This is my last time playing college football. It’s been so fun. Obviously, I love Duke. It’s the best decision I ever made.”

Bowl practices started on Saturday for Duke and will continue in Durham through Sunday. On Monday, the team will travel to New York, and on Tuesday the team will begin practice at Columbia University.

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