HUMBLE STAR: Randy Duncan Battles Cancer

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Randy Duncan has probably had more big days than anyone you know…and here he goes again. An assembly at his high school, in his honor.

“He could fill this room with honors that he’s been offered, but he’s a humble guy, he doesn’t like to talk about himself in front of people,” longtime friend, Jim Cownie says.

That’s kind of a shame, because the story of Randy Duncan is worth telling over and over.  He led the 1954 Roosevelt Roughriders to the State Football title.

“I remember watching him throw the football! And it was unbelievable,”  Cownie remembers.

In basketball, they were state runners-up.  Then it was off to Iowa where he starred in Forest Evashevski’s system. Duncan led the Hawks to their last Rose Bowl title in 1959, finished second in Heisman Trophy voting and was the first pick in the NFL Draft.

“I was offered by Green Bay $12,000 a year, two-year contract to be a number one draft pick. And I was offered $14,000 plus $2,500 bonus to go to Canada, so I took the money!” Duncan laughs.

Had he signed with the Packers, he would have played under a new coach named Lombardi, but he has no regrets.

“You know, that’s one thing I don’t do is look back, because that’s not fruitful,” Duncan says.

Thursday, he did look back—a little.  Sharing memories and wisdom with the current players. There were old trophies to dig out, and yearbooks to see…and friends to greet, as always.

“There are probably 20 people in this town who would say they are Randy Duncan’s best friend. That’s the way he relates to his male friends,” Cownie.

It was a day that wasn’t supposed to come not after what he learned last year.

“I didn’t feel anything different, except I was on my computer and all of a sudden, I couldn’t spell. I thought ‘What in the world?’ So I Googled ‘Inability to spell’…” Duncan says.

Brain cancer is what came up and that’s what it was. Doctors gave him 14 months to live, 15 months ago.

“Everybody tells me how good I look, well I always think ‘God, when they tell you that, look out, that means they don’t really think that,’” Duncan says.

In this case, they’re being honest, and at this point, Duncan is liking his chances.

“If I can get off the chemo, I think I can get where I can read again and think again and I’d like to still do a little practice of law if I can.”

No question—beating cancer would be an astounding accomplishment for anyone.  Even for Randy Duncan, who’s already had more than his share of those.


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