Bulldozing superstar earns a spot in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame’s 2018 class after amazing run from high school to college and all the way to the NFL.
In some ways, TJ Duckett was Jalen Watts-Jackson before Jalen Watts-Jackson was Jalen Watts-Jackson.
I had a perfect view from the corner of the student section (long after I had completed being a student) of Spartan Stadium on November 3rd, 2001.
It’s been revisited so many times – but, just like the play that made Jalen Watts-Jackson immortalized, it won’t ever, ever get old –
TJ Duckett immortalized himself when he cradled that perfect, soft toss from Jeff Smoker.
They can whine all they want about the clock – Smoker made the pass, Duckett made the catch, State won the game, and nothing with ever change that.
And while TJ Duckett certainly won’t ever complain about this play being, perhaps, his legacy as a Spartan, we all know that he made so many more contributions during his time wearing Green & White.
One of the more interesting elements of what Duckett did as a Spartan was how he earned his legacy as a running back after earning the status as the nation’s premiere high school linebacker.
Nick Saban agreed to let TJ Duckett get his shot at rumbling through defenses while carrying the ball – and that might have been what tipped the scales in Michigan State’s favor.
TJ Duckett finished his career as a Spartan in the program’s all time top ten in rushing yards (3,379 – good for sixth all time) and carries (621 – good for eighth all time).
Of course, he also did what so many other Spartan greats have done and are still doing today – he followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Tico, who is a Spartan legend himself and who shares in this honor, as I’m sure TJ would agree.
Duckett plowed and pummeled his way into the Spartan history books for good reason.
And with that catch when there was plenty of time left on the clock, he pummeled his way into our hearts where his legacy will live forever.
Congratulations, TJ – you have the entire Spartan Nation applauding your induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
MSU’s Duckett, Lions’ Porcher headline Michigan Sports HOF class
The phone call came about three weeks. It was totally unexpected and, well, amazing.
We suppose the only thing that would’ve made it any better is if the caller on the other end greeted Todd “T.J.” Duckett with, “Got a second?”
Duckett, one of the most accomplished running backs in Michigan State history — yet one who always will be most remembered for a touchdown catch with no time left on the clock to stun rival Michigan in wildly controversial fashion in 2001 — headlines the eight-member 2018 Michigan Sports Hall of Fame class.
The class was unveiled Wednesday night.
“I was just completely shocked,” Duckett, who went by T.J. during his career but now goes by Todd. “It was overwhelming, and out of the blue.
“It’s a true honor. It’s humbling. It’s just amazing.”
Duckett, 37, will be inducted during a gala Friday, Sept. 28, at MotorCity Casino Hotel’s Sound Board theater. Duckett will be joined by B.J. Armstrong (basketball), Daedra Charles-Furlow (basketball), Charlie Coles (basketball), Cullen Finnerty (football), Kate Sobrero-Markgraf (soccer), Robert Porcher (football) and Mick McCabe (media).
Duckett starred at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix before heading to Michigan State, where he played three years.
During his collegiate career, he racked up 3,379 yards (sixth in program history) on 621 carries (eighth). His 29 rushing touchdowns are eighth in program history, and his 2001 season was one of the best by a running back in Michigan State history, as he rushed for 1,420 yards.
The highlight of that season, though, without question was the catch from Jeff Smoker at Spartan Stadium on Nov. 3, to shock No. 6 Michigan. The last play of the game came after the clock appeared to be stopped, manually, with one second left before Smoker spiked the ball
“Easily, easily, easily,” he said, laughing. “I still get it.
“That game was huge.”
And, of course, on the up-and-up, too, right?
“Clearly!” Duckett said, with a hearty chuckle. “No doubt. I don’t know why everybody was so excited. There was plenty of time left.”
After Duckett left Michigan State following his junior season, he was the No. 18 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, by the Atlanta Falcons. He also played for Washington (2006), the Lions (2007) and the Seahawks (2008) before retiring in 2009. He had 44 rushing touchdowns in the NFL.
These days, Duckett is back living in Lansing, where he owns and operates a screen-printing shop.
Duckett, whose older brother Tico also was a star running back at Michigan State, was on his way to work three weeks ago when he got the call.
“There are so many different landmarks that happened, just from being a kid and having a dream,” Duckett said. “To have the high-school career I did, then to go off to college, and just to play professional football, that was the ultimate. And knowing that, one day, dreams do come true.
“It’s something I loved doing, and I stopped playing around 28, 29, and almost nine, 10 years later to get a call like that — it’s just amazing, man.”