Keith Duncan arguably had one of the best college kicking careers in Iowa football, and Big Ten Conference history. And despite the pressure to continue his career in the NFL, he chose a different professional route.
Behind the Cleats
Duncan, a native from Weddington, NC, moved to Iowa City as a walk-on kicker for Iowa football in 2016, coming from one of North Carolina’s most elite high school programs. He was a four-year starting kicker for the Weddington Warriors with 367 career points. He helped lead his team to three conference titles in his four seasons with the prep team. He made one state title appearance and one regional appearance during his time as Warrior.
The list goes on – and that’s just his high school career.
The former kicker set the Iowa football record for most field goals made at 40 yards or more, at 20. Duncan led the Big Ten and ranked 11th in the nation in field goals per game. He was one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award in 2019 and a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Award in 2020.
Duncan earned Big Ten Conference Special Teams Player of the Week against Michigan his freshman year, after connecting on 2-of-2 field goals – including the game-winner on the final play against the Wolverines.
Despite redshirting in 2017, he still got to experience the thrill of blowing out Ohio State 55-24 at a night game in Kinnick Stadium.
“We had that excitement and momentum and we just never looked back,” said Duncan. “We rushed the field after; it was so much fun blowing them out in our home stadium.”
He notoriously finished the game against the Nebraska Huskers with a farewell kiss to Scott Frost and his Husker Faithful. His game-winning field goal is what earned him a scholarship with the Hawkeyes.
“Coach Ferentz comes up to you in person, and I remember he asked me, ‘You like paying for books?’ so I was like ‘No, not really!’ And [Coach Ferentz] goes ‘Well it’s a good thing because you don’t really have to anymore!'” said Duncan.
With such a dense track record followed up with many awards and recognitions, it’s hard for one to believe Duncan would choose any other route but the NFL.
However, he’s taking his game to the next level.
The Iowa alum has moved to Des Moines, IA, to kickstart his one-on-one coaching program, Keith Duncan Kicking, with the hopes of helping tomorrow’s All-Americans perfect their skills just as he did.
Keith Duncan Kicking
It’s not a secret that football is a passion of his, but Duncan knew that passion of his could survive outside of the NFL.
Although he had the right training and mentoring he needed in Charlotte, he knows not every future athlete has that opportunity.
“My kicking coach, Dan Orner, had so many guys in Charlotte that he worked with, and just seeing him give back doing something that he loves – I knew it was something that I eventually wanted to get into,” said Duncan.
He easily could have moved back to his roots in North Carolina to begin his mentoring career, but it’s safe to say Iowa grew on him and he found the perfect spot in Des Moines to grow his own career.
“Using my name and the passionate fans at Iowa, I knew specialized coaching was the market I wanted to get into,” said Duncan.
Although Des Moines may be a new city to Duncan, it’s nothing short of familiar. Des Moines is home to some of the most prestigious high school athletic programs, with Dowling Catholic dominating state championships every year. It’s somewhat representative of the Weddington atmosphere.
His program will focus not just on the physical fundamentals of kicking, but the high school to college transition these young athletes will soon experience.
Duncan had an interesting recruiting process himself, having been committed to one school but walking on at another, so his perspective is one that can be taught through his own experiences.
And when it comes to youth sports, Duncan knows the stress that can be put on the kids – from both parents of the kids and the coaches.
“[Parents] have to understand that kids will learn for themselves, everything on and off the field is a learning experience,” said Duncan. “That’s something that I plan on stressing, whether it’s through football or not.”
Duncan is a huge advocate for youth sports, encouraging kids to play as many sports as possible – and have fun with it.
While this isn’t the only specialized coaching program for young athletes, Duncan plans to differentiate himself from the others by preparing these kids for college, both physically and mentally.
“There are so many things that people don’t know going into college – there’s a buffer there that could really help you,” said Duncan.
Duncan will do in-person, one-on-one sessions for athletes in the Des Moines area. And he has also opened up options for athletes everywhere to connect with him via Zoom video chats.
“The mental side of sports weighs a lot more than the physical side,” said Duncan. “I’ve gone through so many different experiences and I want to be able to give back, having people learn through my experiences.”
Duncan has started creating his own content, such as writing blog posts to add to his website, as well as creating a podcast with former Iowa walk-on Tyler Kluver, entitled “Kicking It With Duncan and Kluver.”
Content creation has become a foundation used to build a brand on, but Duncan has built quite the foundation for himself just playing for Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa Hawkeyes the past four years.
Here’s an article about how important mental health is: “Mental Health in Sports is Everything and Skip Bayless is Flat-Out Wrong!“