Mission accomplished: Duke’s kicker, born nearly deaf, makes first extra point

Willie Holmquist, the Duke kicker who is unable to hear clearly on the field, practices in August.
Willie Holmquist, the Duke kicker who is unable to hear clearly on the field, practices in August. ctoth@heraldsun.com

The final point of Duke’s win over Georgia Tech on Saturday was, in many ways, more special than any other point it’s scored this season.

The extra point in the fourth quarter, which gave the Blue Devils a 43-20 win over Georgia Tech, was made by William Holmquist, the 6-1, 190-pound graduate transfer kicker who was born with severe hearing loss. It was his first kicking attempt of the season and a moment he’d worked for his whole life.

“It was awesome!” Holmquist wrote in an email. “I was both excited and grateful for the opportunity to kick it, especially on Senior Day to contribute towards a big win for us.”

After kicking at Division III Tufts for three seasons, Holmquist graduated and enrolled at Duke’s Fuqua Business School last summer. He joined Duke’s football team as a walk-on for his final year of college football eligibility.

Though he lost the starting kicking job to sophomore Austin Parker in August, he’s remained part of the team in a reserve role.

Saturday’s game was Duke’s final home game and senior day. Holmquist’s parents, Calvin and Maria Holmquist of Dix Hills, N.Y., were part of the pregame ceremony on the field honoring their son and the other 20 outgoing players.

In the fourth quarter, when Duke quarterback Daniel Jones scored on a 32-yard run for the game’s final touchdown, Duke coach David Cutcliffe sent Holmquist out for his first Division I kick.

After Holmquist made the extra point, he returned to the sidelines where a smiling Cutcliffe was among the first people to greet him.

“I’m still feeling good about that,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s a great young man. And I just keep telling him when I see him, ‘You’re on the books, man.’ He scored. He’s on the books. He’s worked so hard. He’s so focused. He’s a great student and a great citizen of Duke football.”

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC