IRONTON — Ironton’s Ashton Duncan, in his own words, just knew that institution over in Oxford was calling his name.
And so with that, the senior Duncan — the Fighting Tigers’ third-team all-Ohio Division V defensive end —decided to make it official in a recent signing ceremony, putting pen to paper with a National Letter-of-Intent to play college football for Miami (Ohio) University.
That’s correct, as Duncan becomes a RedHawk —and will play primarily tight end for the Oxford-based Mid-American Conference club.
Duncan was one of two Ironton standouts to ink with Football Bowl Subdivision schools during the early signing period, which officially ended three weeks ago —as Angelo Washington to the University of Kentucky is the other.
He was flanked at his signing ceremony by his parents Kevin and Lori Duncan; elder brother and former Fighting Tiger standout Ethan Duncan; sister Olivia Duncan; his Fighting Tiger teammates and coaches; and several other family members and friends.
Duncan, standing six feet and two inches tall and weighing 245 pounds, was a first-team all-Southeast District Division V defensive end —which automatically meant he made AT LEAST Honorable Mention all-Ohio.
He was selected for the all-state third-team, despite missing some of the season because of a lower back/upper buttocks injury.
Duncan did visit both Ohio University, Miami’s archrival and fellow MAC program, and Marshall University —but said simply “when I visited Miami, it was like something different.”
“I knew it was home,” he said. “It was where I needed to be.”
Chuck Martin is the RedHawks’ head coach and former offensive coordinator at the University of Notre Dame, as Duncan explained that Miami’s offense is identical in many ways with Ironton’s.
Duncan played tight end as both a blocking and pass-catching threat, and even lined up at fullback some — and saw some carries both there and at H-back.
“The offense is very complicated with the plays, but what they run is very similar to us,” he said.
Although inked as a tight end for the RedHawks, he didn’t rule out a position switch —and possible, or eventual, return to defensive end.
“I plan to play on the line and in the backfield some, both blocking and catching passes. But you never know, I could get switched back (to defense) once I get there,” he said.
Regardless of where, or even when, Duncan does play, he said he needs to strengthen his lower back —because of a broken bone at the base of his spine “that will never heal”.
“If I get bigger, stronger and faster and work on the right things this offseason, for my first year there, my position coach told me that I will have a good chance to start or at least rotate in,” he said. “I am going to do everything I can to play at the next level, and get as healthy and stay as healthy as possible.”
Indeed, Duncan admits an Ironton career full of highs —including playing in back-to-back Division V state championship tilts —and lows, including missing much of his senior season due to his back injury.
However, in the end he explained, “it’s all worked out”.
“It’s been a long journey where I’ve had some ups and downs, but I’ve gotten through it. Playing on two teams that made the state championship game, it’s been great,” said Duncan. “The last four years is almost everything you could ask for for a high school football player.”
Especially as a member of Ironton’s often airtight defensive unit.
In fact, the Fighting Tigers’ defense has surrendered more than three touchdowns in one game just twice in three years —last season’s (2020) state championship tilt against Kirtland, and against Division I powerhouse Cincinnati Moeller (25 points) in their only regular-season loss this fall.
This past season, the Fighting Tigers only allowed 106 total points in 13 games.
Duncan’s two teammates —Washington at linebacker and Nate Cochran at tackle —shared the Southeast District Division V Defensive Player of the Year award.
“Ashton has been here all four years, part of the first class we’ve had the chance to coach all the way through. He is a great kid that is always smiling and laughing and there is never a dull moment around him,” said Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton. “Just a tremendous worker, tremendous football player and person.”
Duncan said he plans on majoring in Business at Miami.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved