One week from today, 11 of Duke's 16 offensive linemen and assistant strength coach Marcus Johnson will board a flight to Ethiopia. There, the group will do volunteer work for two weeks, working with kids in sports camps and drilling at least one freshwater well for a rural community.
Guard Dave Harding is the man behind the trip, as the redshirt junior spent many summers with his family in middle school and high school drilling wells in Ethiopia.
"A lot of these guys have never left the country," says Harding, a junior who started nine games at center and left guard last year. "It will be good to get them over there. From a personal standpoint it will be exciting to see how everyone responds to it.
"We don't get the opportunity to do DukeEngage trips and study abroad, so this is our chance to do that and a chance to give back to the world community. And from a football standpoint, by taking this trip we are bound to grow as friends and get to know people better. Some of the upperclassmen don't see much of the underclassmen outside of practice, but when you go on a life-changing trip like this it makes you closer, so it's bound to have impacts on the field as well."
The idea for the upcoming trip came to Harding during a speech by new offensive line coach John Latina, who was urging the linemen to become the Blue Devils' most cohesive unit.
"That's the core reason for why the offensive linemen are going together, to bring us all closer together and create a stronger bond between us," says sophomore Laken Tomlinson, who started every game at guard last year.
"This group is pretty close. Our previous coach, Coach Luke, believed we should be one unit, and our new coach, Coach Latina, also believes that we should be the strongest bond on the field. This trip should definitely create a stronger bond between us, so I’m excited for that."
The trip will end May 16 and come during one of the few windows the players have at semester's end. With all the drilling they'll be doing, it'll hardly be a break from the offseason grind.