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How UNC’s Storm Duck got his name, and why he’s a freshman starter for the Tar Heels

Phyllis Duck loved soap operas. When she was in her 20’s, one of her favorites was ‘The Bold and the Beautiful.’

One of the show’s main characters was Storm Logan. Duck said she was fascinated by the name.

“I said if ‘I ever have a son, I’m going to name him Storm,’” Phyllis Duck recalled in a recent interview.

About 13 years later, she was married and pregnant with her second child. And it was a boy. She told her husband, Todd, her plan.

Todd Duck said he wasn’t immediately on board.

“Why don’t we name him Chandler Storm Duck?” he asked her.

“Nope, Storm Chandler Duck,” she replied. “I like the name, Storm.”

And so, when her son was born on Dec. 15, 2000, they named him Storm Chandler Duck.

Today, Duck is a 6-1, 180-pound freshman cornerback for the UNC football team.

He made his first start of the season last week against No. 1 Clemson and held his own. The Tar Heels nearly upset the Tigers, but lost 21-20 at home. Their defense held Clemson to its fewest yards (331) and fewest points (21) since the 2017 season.

Duck played a big part in that. He had a season-high six tackles. Duck said he found out earlier in the week that he would get the start against Clemson.

Starting against the top-ranked team in the country might be a daunting task for a freshman. But it wasn’t for Duck. Few things faze him.

When asked in an interview with The News & Observer could he sleep the night before the game, Duck replied, “I could.”

‘A quiet storm’

Storm’s name, in some ways, is in contrast with his demeanor. Storms tend to be loud and intense. Kind of like most cornerbacks.

Storm Duck is not. He’s the opposite.

He speaks softly, and carefully chooses his words. He doesn’t show much emotion on the football field.

Duck’s teammates and coaches say he is a man of few words.

“He’ll give you a little smile, he’ll give you a little chuckle here and there, but that’s him,” UNC cornerbacks coach Dre Bly said. “That’s his personality. He’s a quiet storm.”

UNC defensive back Tre Morrison, who was roommates with Duck in the spring, remembers the first time he met Duck. He said they were moving into their dorm room, and Morrison told Duck, ‘What’s up?’ hoping to introduce himself.

“He was like ‘What’s up,’ then he just got his room ready,” Morrison said with a laugh.

Duck’s parents laughed when they were told that story.

“He’s more of an observer, than a talker,” Phyllis Duck said.

They say their youngest child has always been a quiet person. Duck has an older sister named Tempest, which means a ‘violent storm,’ but that was a coincidence. Todd Duck said he got the name from the Cosby Show actress Tempestt Bledsoe. (“We just dropped one of the t’s,” Todd says.)

The Ducks lived in Greenville, S.C. for the first seven years of Storm’s life, before moving to Spartanburg, S.C. When Storm told people his name, they were always shocked.

“Storm?! They’d say.

“Yes sir,” or “Yes ma’am,” he’d reply.

Sometimes they didn’t believe him. They asked his mother, ‘Why did you name your son Storm?’ And each time, she’d tell them, “Because it was a beautiful name.”

She also thought it represented strength, and that’s what she wanted for her son.

“Anything he comes up against, to have the strength to stand,” she said. “Always stand.”

Always prepared

Duck went to Boiling Springs High School in nearby Boiling Springs, S.C.

There, he developed a reputation as a hard worker. It was something his parents instilled in him at an early age. He always worked hard to make sure he was prepared, whether it was for school or sports.

So he says he’s rarely nervous.

He trusts his preparation.

Duck made the varsity football team when he was a sophomore. He also ran track.

That year, Boiling Springs High School made it the 5A South Carolina state championship game, and Duck was the starting cornerback.

Boiling Springs would not have gotten to the state final had it not been for Duck.

In the state playoff semi-final game, Boiling Springs was playing rival Spartanburg High School. In overtime, Duck intercepted a pass to prevent Spartanburg for scoring the game-winning touchdown.

In double overtime, he broke up a two-point conversion attempt that would have put Spartanburg up by one point. Instead, Boiling Springs won.

“That’s why when I watched the Clemson-North Carolina game this past weekend, it didn’t surprise me a bit that he was able to step on that stage and feel like he was right at home and ready to play as a freshman,” his high school coach, Rick Tate, said. “That’s very similar to what he did for us that year. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”

Duck was a three-star prospect in high school. He was ranked the 116th best corner in the Class of 2019 and had offers to UNC, Appalachian State, Army, Campbell and Charleston Southern.

He ultimately committed to UNC because he said he felt like he belonged there. That’s why when former UNC coach Larry Fedora was fired, and other coaches came calling, he never wavered in his commitment.

“Who wouldn’t want to play here?” Duck said. “That’s how I felt about it.”

Duck enrolled at UNC in January as an early enrollee. Multiple media outlets, including Sports Illustrated, named him to their All-Name team.

Brown said Duck is smart and loves the game.

“I was pushing the coaches in the spring to get him out there,” Brown said Wednesday. “And they are always hesitant with freshmen. And I thought he did a good job most of the time Saturday.”

Making his second start

Duck wasn’t supposed to be starting at this point in UNC’s season.

But when UNC senior cornerback Patrice Rene tore his ACL, the coaching staff needed someone to play opposite of Morrison. Junior cornerback Greg Ross was initially called to start.

But Storm just kept getting better. And eventually, he stepped into that role.

“He played against App State a good amount and we just felt like after that game, he was playing at a level that he deserved to play more,” UNC defensive coordinator Jay Bateman said. “So we started him and he played really well and we rolled with it.”

Duck will continue to start this season opposite of Morrison as the Tar Heels try to win the ACC Coastal Division and get to a bowl game.

He’ll make his second career start when UNC (2-3, 1-1 ACC) plays Georgia Tech (1-3, 0-1 ACC) in Atlanta on Saturday.

After stepping up against Clemson, his coaches have confidence in him.

“I couldn’t have done that,” said Bly, who is also a Hall of Fame cornerback. “As a true freshman, stepping up against the No. 1 team in the country and performing the way that he did, it says a lot about the kid and how much he has progressed and the upside that he has.”

UNC AT GEORGIA TECH

When: 4 p.m., Saturday

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta

Watch: ACC Network

Listen: WTKK-106.1 Raleigh; WCHL-97.9, WCHL-1360 Chapel Hill; WBT-99.3, WBT-1110 Charlotte

Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
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