High school recruits from Mississippi don’t often wind up playing their college ball in the Golden State, but UC Berkeley became a unique fit for NFL hopeful Jordan Duncan right from the get-go. Now four years removed from moving more than 2,000 miles from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to the Bay Area, he’s on the outside looking in to the 2020 NFL draft — but continues to hold out hope that above-average hands and an innate ability to tip-toe the sideline will give him a shot at the next level.
Unlike most student-athletes in this day and age, Duncan never redshirted during his time at Cal, taking advantage of an air-raid offensive scheme during his freshman season with former Cal quarterback Davis Webb. While his playing time was initially limited due to the Bears’ loaded receivers core, he learned from future NFL draftee Chad Hansen and five-star product Demetris Robertson. One of the top factors that made Hansen a fourth-round selection in 2017 was body control, something Duncan possessed as well as any receiver on the Bears’ roster this past season.
He caught his first touchdown pass in the final game of 2016, and kicked off 2017 with a flair for the dramatic, hauling in the go-ahead score from Ross Bowers against North Carolina. Despite showing tremendous promise in the season’s opener, his production was limited during his sophomore season, as Bowers leaned heavily on Jordan Veasy, Kanawai Noa and Vic Wharton III throughout much of the year.
A couple of injuries limited Duncan to 19 games over his final two seasons, but the moments outweigh the numbers when it comes to his impact on the program. While he broke out for a career-high two scores against Idaho State his junior year, his clutch factor shined through most during his senior season. In Cal’s 20-19 upset over Washington, it was back-to-back throws from Chase Garbers to Duncan that set the Bears up for a marquee win on the road.
When the team made a rare appearance in Duncan’s home state against Ole Miss, he took advantage, recording five catches and a career-high 63 yards with a signature tip-toe score. He also played a pivotal role in Cal’s trying loss at Oregon and when the Bears upset Stanford for the first time in 10 years.
Duncan’s chances of being selected this weekend remain slim, but a shot at the undrafted free agent wire isn’t out of the question. With average speed but a solid frame, consistency and relying on a go-getter mindset will be at the forefront of his journey moving forward.