Austin Duke needs no introduction to the Charlotte athletics community. He holds several 49er receiving records including the receptions record, yardage record and receiving touchdowns record. In his senior campaign, Duke had four 100-yard receiving performances and caught two 60+ yard touchdowns as well.
Relive his 49er career in another Niner Times 49er Flashback.
The glory days
Duke attended Independence High School in Charlotte, NC. In his time at Independence, Duke received the Southwestern 4A Player of the Year award.
“I always looked for ways to improve, and get quicker and faster,” said Duke.
Duke also ran track in high school which he believes led to his success in football. He was a part of the junior olympics team in the summer leading up to his senior year, competing in several events.
“Running track and training during the offseason really led to a lot of success my senior year,” said Duke.
In his senior season, he led his team to a 10-2 record and a quarterfinals appearance in the 4A state playoffs. Duke said this proves that hard work and dedication pays off.
Illustrious collegiate career
With only two offers coming out of high school, Duke wanted to play tough opponents and get the Division I experience. His offers included only NC Central and Charlotte. He wanted to be a part of the new program that Charlotte was forming at the time in 2012. He redshirted his first year to be able to play with the 49ers in their inaugural 2013 season.
“The thought of being able to create something special that hasn’t been done before. This is my city and if anyone is going to be able to write their name on the city, it’s going to be me,” said Duke.
Duke started in 41 of the 46 games he played in his career with the 49ers. He had 3,437 receiving yards and 25 total touchdowns during his time at Charlotte. To say that Duke is one of the best to ever play at Charlotte is an understatement.
“Being a part of Charlotte Football’s first class means everything to me, and I am at a point now where I am trying to build on that legacy,” said Duke.
Leaving this legacy for future 49ers is something that Duke will cherish forever and is a Charlotte household name.
After college, Duke went undrafted, but later signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2017. He played on the practice squad for two seasons and saw action in the preseason in 2018 accumulating 69 yards on nine receptions. Duke was later released from the team at the end of training camp.
In May 2019, Duke signed with the Toronto Argonauts which is a part of the Canadian Football League. He was later released in June of the same year.
He went on to participate in a AAF training camp with the Atlanta Legends but sustained an injury that prevented him from playing.
“I tore my hamstring, so I wasn’t able to play in the AAF,” said Duke.
Duke got his shot with the XFL in January 2020, when he signed with the New York Guardians. In five games with the Guardians, Duke had five receptions for 46 yards and one touchdown. The XFL season was abruptly ended in March due to COVID-19.
After his playing career, Duke wanted to help out his local community by creating the Austin P. Duke Foundation in 2019. The goal for the foundation is to establish good character in local young men in the community of Charlotte and the local area through 7v7 competitions and tackling camps. Their vision is that young men will strive and give their best effort in their pursuit to be the best person they can be.
Giving kids the resources and knowledge they need is very important to Duke and what his goal is with the APD foundation.
“All the answers that I didn’t have growing up, I can give that to the kids growing up here in Charlotte,” said Duke.
“I felt it was a responsibility of mine, the sense of paying it forward to my community,” said Duke.
Diversity is at the center of the APD foundation. Focusing on different things to teach young kids that live in a very diverse community is something that the foundation strives toward. Giving the youth of Charlotte better answers than the founders had as young kids is the ultimate goal.
“How we work together as a community to uplift Charlotte as a whole is key,” said Duke.
There is much more to Duke than football. He leaves a legacy that is unmatched. Through his career with the 49ers he is now able to impact the lives of children within the Charlotte community. This is what it is all about for Duke; giving back to the community to give kids a better opportunity than he had growing up.