Blaine's football team is no secret when it comes to the top football teams in Minnesota. But when the team lost quarterback Eric Kline to graduation, skeptics weren't sure how the team would respond. From wide receiver to quarterback, in stepped senior Duke Anyanwu. Two weeks into the season, Anyanwu's blistering performance against top contender Hopkins (four rushing touchdowns in his team's 26-20 overtime win) was a wakeup call to the rest of the state — Blaine football hasn't missed a step.
We caught up with Anyanwu to talk to him about this season and why Blaine's team is again primed to contend for a state title.
ESPNHS: You jumped into the quarterback position this season after being a wide receiver last year. How was that transition for you?
Anyanwu: Coming in, I was definitely apprehensive a little bit. I wanted to stay within our element and not push things to the max. But after summer workouts and pre-fall workouts and stuff, we really started clicking. We had to really push the tempo and push our limits. Now the defense is rolling, the offense is looking good, and our O-line is really stepping up.
ESPNHS: You were a little under the radar yourself entering this season. Did you feel like you needed a big senior season to get some more college offers?
Anyanwu: Going into the season, I had two offers from Air Force and North Dakota, and both of those are good schools. So I didn't feel like I had to prove anything. I just had to win. I am going to do whatever it takes to win. I hear the talk about people doubting me, not thinking I'm going to be that good, but I'm not really focused on that. In fact, I love the criticism. It makes me work even harder and it adds to my game.
I feel like to get more offers I just need to win. I don't need to do things that aren't me. You aren't going to get noticed if your team doesn't go far.
ESPNHS: Your team really made a statement with your win over Hopkins last week, and they've got another one of the top players in the state in Andre McDonald. Tell me how that game went that allowed you to have such a big game.
Anyanwu: Andre is a great player, and he's a good buddy of mine. He's a ballplayer for sure. He makes things happen. But we did pretty well against them, and all in all we got the win. From my point of view, I just felt like they couldn't stop my run game. I saw some gaps and I was just trying to make guys miss. We had some power running and some fast hard-nosed yards. It was a good team effort.
ESPNHS: Which do you prefer, running with the football or making passes?
Anyanwu: I like doing both equally. I'd say I have no problem running the football, obviously, and I like using my legs and making plays. I'm able to pass if I need to but I really like to both run and pass.
ESPNHS: How did you get ready for this season?
Anyanwu: I worked out a lot. I lifted by myself, worked on my velocity, did a lot of cone training work to be quick off a dead stance and I worked on my cutting a lot. I also just worked on sheer strength. I gained 25 pounds over the summer just from working. And I played AAU basketball, which helped my conditioning and helped me stay in shape. I was definitely working hard all summer.
ESPNHS: So what do you have to say about Blaine's resurgence this season?
Anyanwu: I don't think we're really sneaking up on people, because it feels like every year we're in the section title game or we win it and we get to state. We're always up there year in and year out. But this year people didn't think we could do a lot because we lost a great QB in Eric Kline, we lost a bunch of senior leadership, our whole receiving core last year was seniors except me, and people have doubted our team. But I think we love that. We love being the underdogs, being able to make plays and shock people. We want to get the target on our backs and go from there. It's definitely been a fun start to the season.
ESPNHS: Finally, what did you learn from Eric Kline that you're really working at this season in your transition to QB?
Anyanwu: I look up to Eric a lot, he's a good buddy of mine to this day. I took the leadership aspect from him. I try to do both on and off the field what he used to do. Then I try to incorporate my play in a little bit. I just mix in what I do best here and there. I'm not trying to be him, I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to win.