ATHLETE OF THE WEEK

Lincoln’s McDuffy is unlike any other high school grid star

Lincoln senior defensive back/wide receiver Jaquan McDuffy
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Lincoln senior defensive back/wide receiver Jaquan McDuffy

It’s safe to say that Jaquan McDuffy marches to the beat of a different drummer – namely his own beat. The Lincoln High School senior football standout is so totally unique. There has never been another Hudson County football player like McDuffy. He is definitely one of a kind.

“I love being different,” said McDuffy, the speedy wide receiver/defensive back/kick returner for the Lions. “You can’t compare anyone else to me. My personality is like no one. I’m like a human comic book. I just go out there and live my life. I don’t worry about anyone else.”

Lincoln head coach Robert Hampton knows full well that McDuffy is a different breed of cat.

“He has his own rhythm and style,” Hampton said. “His style is his own. He doesn’t think he’s strange. He things everyone else is strange. He operates on another planet. He’s like our own Dennis Rodman.”

And that goes right down to the hairstyle – or should we say hair colors. Yes, plural.

“I like looking good,” McDuffy said. “I like coloring my hair. One day, it can be purple, then blue, then green, then orange, then red. Right now, it’s blond.”

Lucky for McDuffy, his mother is a hair stylist and has all the colors of the rainbow at her disposal.

“My Mom does it for me,” McDuffy said. “She loves doing it. She says it’s fun.”

Last year, McDuffy didn’t have many reasons to be eccentric, because he came to Lincoln after spending his first two years at St. Anthony. But when the tiny downtown Jersey City Parochial school closed its doors, McDuffy made his way to play for the senior-dominated Lions, who rolled to a 7-3 record and a berth in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II playoffs, losing to Bernards.

“I knew I would be a starter this year,” McDuffy said. “I knew that I was going to get more of an opportunity to show what I’m capable of.”

Even though McDuffy might be a little eccentric, there’s no doubting his dedication to the gridiron.

“He’s a great kid,” Hampton said. “He’s the first one in the weight room. You can learn to accept his eccentricities.”

“I’m just trying to help the team and show that I’m one of the key players,” McDuffy said. “I’m happy to be in the position to do that.”
Last week, as the Lions played a crucial game for their state playoff hopes against Caldwell, McDuffy was ready to totally make his mark, donning the blond hair and the determined look on his face.

As it turned out, McDuffy did a little bit of everything in the Lions’ 45-14 victory. McDuffy had an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown, caught two touchdown passes from Dyshawn Brooks of 55 and 41 yards and capped his day with an interception.

For his three touchdown and 295-yard day of total offense, McDuffy has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.

“It meant a lot to me,” said the 5-foot-8, 175-pound McDuffy. “I now know that I can do that any given night.”

That’s asking a lot, but then again, McDuffy is just oozing with confidence.

Not only does McDuffy have the different approach and different hair colors, but he also has a different nickname. Among his friends and family, McDuffy is known as “Boogie.”

“I don’t know how I got the name,” McDuffy said. “I’m just ‘Boogie.’ My Mom is the one who gave me the name and it stuck. It just came out of nowhere.”

McDuffy’s mother explained it as that McDuffy was the youngest of five siblings and that he was the baby. That just naturally translated to “Boogie” and the rest, as they say, is history.

“She said that I just looked like a ‘Boogie,’” McDuffy said. “I have two older sisters and two older brothers. It’s a catchy nickname. Everyone in my family all played football, my uncles and cousins.”

In fact, McDuffy’s cousin is former Hudson Reporter All-Area quarterback Isaiah Roberts, who earned All-Area honors in 2011 and 2012.

“Me and my cousin were always competitive,” McDuffy said. “I think that helped me become the player that I am.”

“Boogie” McDuffy is also a standout baseball player, roaming centerfield in the spring for the Lions.

“Right now, I’m thinking about playing football in college,” McDuffy said. “But if I have a good baseball season, I might give playing both a try. But I want to go to college and play football. I’m not sure where yet, but I want to go. I like playing both sports. It gives me a leadership role in both.”

Hampton is working on hooking McDuffy up with the right school.

“Whoever gets him, they should be happy, because he’s an athlete,” Hampton said. “And they will enjoy him.”

McDuffy was asked if he was a better defensive back or a better receiver. Right now, McDuffy leads the state in average yards per reception, collecting an astounding 41 yards per catch.

“I think I’m a better receiver,” McDuffy said. “[Coach] Hampton doesn’t think so, but I think I’m a receiver.”

“He makes people smile,” Hampton said. “Whatever he does, he’s making people smile. He just shows up and makes plays in the crunch. He’s been outstanding, catching passes, running punts back. It’s been unreal. He really has taken his game to another level. He’s just lighting it up. It’s great watching him perform.”

Added Hampton, “He’s fun. I enjoy coaching him. Every time he says something, I just burst out laughing. I really enjoy coaching him.”

And McDuffy is just enjoying life. West Essex is up next.
“Sometimes, I see people talking about me, saying I’m weird,” McDuffy said. “I’ll look back at them and say to myself, ‘I’m going to give you a sad moment.’ I know I’m going to have a happy moment and get my teammates out of the sad moment.”

Got all that? Good, because it was downright confusing when said. But that’s the glory of Jaquan McDuffy. – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com