Duke senior QB Brandon Connette to transfer

Apr. 10, 2014 @ 08:25 PM

Brandon Connette did plenty to help Duke football.

He graduated early from Oaks Christian School in California and enrolled at Duke in January 2010.

He went through rehabilitation to come back from a shoulder injury that wiped out his 2011 season.

He learned Duke’s offense and used his skills to thrive in a system that utilized multiple quarterbacks so much so that he’s the school’s all-time leader with 31 rushing touchdowns.

But his mother’s cancer battle California has so impacted Connette that he’ll be leaving Duke behind to return to the West Coast.

On Thursday, Duke announced that Connette has been given permission to speak with colleges closer to his Corona, Calif., home about transferring there for his final college football season.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe didn’t specify which schools Connette is considering. Connette didn’t respond to interview requests and his family declined comment.

In a news release, Connette said he was grateful for the help the school has given him.

“I could not be more appreciative of Coach Cutcliffe for his understanding of this situation,” Connette said.  “Being away from my family during my mother’s illness has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to endure.  I’m thankful that Duke University afforded me so many incredible opportunities — academically, athletically and socially — and will always hold my experience here in the highest regard.”

Nancy Connette fell ill last fall. On Dec. 12, tests showed she had a brain tumor that needed immediate surgery. Brandon Connette, at Duke finishing up his school work for the semester, caught a flight to California to be with his family.

While Brandon was traveling, Nancy Connette barely survived the surgery. She suffered a stroke that impaired her memory and motor skills.

Connette spent two weeks in California at his mother’s bedside as Cutcliffe excused him from Duke’s practices as the Blue Devils prepared for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. With his mother’s health improving, he met the team in Atlanta for practices and the Dec. 31 bowl game with Texas A&M.

Connette scored a touchdown but Duke lost 52-48. He returned to California to be with his family before returning to Duke for the spring semester.

By March 1, Nancy Connette’s doctors allowed her to travel to Durham for the Blue Devils spring football game. She was unable to be at Wallace Wade Stadium, but watched the game from Cutcliffe’s office at the adjacent Yoh Football Center.

Since then, Brandon decided that being away from his family was too difficult.

“First and foremost, our prayers and concerns are with Nancy Connette and her quest for good health,” Cutcliffe said in a Duke release.  “We thank Brandon for his many contributions to Duke University and our football program.  We want nothing but the best for Brandon — both on the football field and off — and his personal situation is very close to our hearts.  He’s been an integral part of our program over the past four years, and we wish him continued success going forward.”

Connette rushed for 14 touchdowns and threw for 13 touchdowns last season as Duke went 10-4 to set a school record for wins in a season. As he had last year, Connette was expected to share time with Anthony Boone in Cutcliffe’s two-quarterback system this season.

Connette graduated with an economics degree last December and, per NCAA rules, is eligible to play immediately this fall at his new school.

His departure means redshirt sophomore Thomas Sirk moves into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Duke also has quarterbacks Parker Boehme, a redshirt freshman, and true freshman Jonathan Lloyd.

A fourth quarterback, Nico Pierre, has signed with Duke and will enroll this summer. Pierre is considered a four-star prospect on a 0 to 5 scale by the various recruiting services.