Jamie Duncan never dreamed of being enshrined in Vanderbilt Athletic Hall of Fame.
He was just glad the school let him back on campus after a “stupid mistake.”
Duncan, a two-time All-American linebacker, is one of seven who will inducted on Sept. 6 as part of the school’s fifth Hall of Fame class, Vanderbilt announced Monday. He also joins Billy Joe Adcock (men’s basketball), Josie Earnest (bowling), Dr. Brant Lipscomb (team physician), Carolyn Peck (women’s basketball), Jess Roguski Onheiser (lacrosse) and Jeremy Sowers (baseball).
“I almost feel like I’m not worthy but it is a tremendous honor,” Duncan said. “I just wanted to get on the field and prove I could play.”
Duncan finished his career with more than 300 tackles and was the Southeastern Conference’s co-defensive player of the year in 1997. But his career — and future — could have been cut short.
During his sophomore season, he was suspended from the school for using illegal credit cards on campus. Duncan wondered if he’d get another chance at Vanderbilt and thought he might have to look at transferring to another school. But Vanderbilt reinstated him the following June as long as he adhered to certain academic stipulations.
“I never took it for granted again,” he said. “Easily the most significant thing that’s happened to me. Coming from a small town [Wilmington, Del.], people were expecting me to set the example. It was disappointing for my family and friends and for me to go back under those circumstances. It was humbling. It was embarrassing. But, through support of the school, my family and friends, I got back on the horse and started grinding, started working out.
“I started doing everything they asked me to do. They held up their end and the rest is kind of history.”
Duncan played seven seasons in the NFL with Tamp Bay, St. Louis and Atlanta. He currently lives in Tampa where he works with former Vanderbilt player Ronnie Gordon to provide dental care to low income families throughout the country.
The news also surprised Sowers, who was a two-time All-SEC pitcher from 2002-04. The left-hander helped lead the Commodores to their first NCAA Super Regional in 2004 and was drafted sixth overall by the Cleveland Indians later that summer. He was the Indians minor league pitcher and player of the year in 2005. He also became the first Indians rookie to throw consecutive shutouts since 1972.
But injuries ended his career prematurely. He underwent shoulder surgery in 2011. The following year, he tore his Achilles. He returned this April to play in the Atlantic League (an independent professional league) for two months.
He is currently in graduate school at the University of North Carolina.
“This is probably the highest athletic honor I’ll ever receive in my entire life,” Sowers said. “At the pinnacle of what I’ve done with my baseball career, obviously playing professionally baseball was the highlight of it. But my professional career, the fact that I’m done, I played with a little bit of failure and had a lot of success in college. I’m very, very appreciative of the opportunity to represent the baseball team and what it has become.”