Los Angeles Times

Newport Harbor's Duffy always on the go

There he goes again, from one place to the next. Colin Duffy always has something to do.

Free time? The gifted Newport Harbor High senior hardly has any.

Throughout the school year, Duffy has been seen working out with the football team, playing his saxophone with the school band, training with the NHHS sailing team, fulfilling his role as vice president of the Junior Statesmen of America club as well as president of the Teenage Republicans club and working as a boat valet at The Cannery in Newport Beach.

So when does this kid sleep?

"I still haven't figured that one out," Duffy said with a laugh, shortly after performing with his band mates at the school's jazz picnic on June 1. "Caffeine is my friend."

Jokes aside, Duffy uses certain values, which he said he acquired from his mother, Linda, and father, Tom, to attack each day with a strong passion and an unrelenting determination to "take advantage of opportunities."

That's a big reason why Duffy will graduate Thursday afternoon as a valedictorian on his way to Duke, where he'll be a preferred walk-on as a long snapper.

"I don't have free time," Duffy, 17, says. "And if I do have free time, I try to find something to do with that free time. I find myself to be rather efficient in that process."

When Duffy is at work, it's usually with his best effort. Several in the community attest to Duffy's strong work ethic and his ability to connect with others at different settings.

The high school social scene can be known for cliques. But Duffy doesn't have time for that.


Football keeps Duffy busy for sure. Long snapping can be something of an art form. Duffy uses his intelligence and attention to detail to do his best to master the snap, the spiral and the accuracy. There's actually more aspects than that.

Duffy enjoys it because he's always loved football even back to his playing days for Newport-Mesa Junior All-American.

That's where Karif Byrd came to know Duffy and fell in love with the boy that makes Byrd nearly cry because he's so impressed with Duffy's character.

"He's a smart kid," Byrd said, starting with a rather simple quality of Duffy's. "I would never get in a debate with him because he would kill me."

Byrd, a Corona del Mar High assistant football coach, works with several different types of athletes for Get It Done Sports, his intense strength and conditioning company that continues to grow. Byrd said his greatest respect of the athletes are those, "who work their butts off."

That's why Byrd holds Duffy in such high regard.

"I can go back the first time I met him," Byrd said. "I thought he was so unathletic that he struggled to even get out of the car. I don't say that to be mean, but to show how hard he has worked to become an athlete."

Byrd has teased Duffy about a story from Junior All-American football. One time, Byrd says, the Seahawks team scored a touchdown on a long pass. All the Newport-Mesa players on the field ran to the end zone to celebrate. But not Duffy. He stayed where he was and applauded.

"He's like, 'I'm not going down there,'" Byrd said. "The play's done. He didn't have to move. I just found that funny."

Yet the story shows Duffy is unique. Chris Rubio concurs. Rubio, a long-snapping guru, puts on several camps throughout the nation and has helped several long-snappers land spots on NCAA Division I programs.

Rubio is in high demand when it comes to long snapping. He provides credibility with his own rankings and ratings system. Duffy is ranked No. 33 in the nation, yet the Newport Beach blonde boy still sticks out.

"He's a very intelligent long snapper," Rubio said. "There are certain kids who can't learn as well. He's smart but he can learn, which is very rare. Some of the smarter kids can overthink what needs to be done. He has improved every time I see him. He's a good kid. He always has a smile on his face."

Well, not always. He needs to be tough when he's on the line and when he's competing at Rubio's camps. Rubio's ratings are based on style, speed, accuracy, consistency, spiral, mentality, athletics, size and blocking.

Rubio has the athletes compete at his camps because he wants to see how they handle pressure.

Duffy isn't smiling much if he's not excelling at each factor. He wants to continue to improve as he heads to Duke, where he'll be among the team's 105 to report to summer training camp. That means he is among the team's 20 top-rated non-scholarship players requested by Coach David Cutcliffe.

Duffy reports to camp on June 27 and starts classes June 30. He wants to be ready to fulfill his role at a position that Rubio views as, "incredibly important."

"Try to win a game without a long snapper," Rubio said. "I've never seen a game-winning kick without a game-winning snap."

Duffy, who was a part of the Sailors' run to the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division championship game, appears to be the right man for the job.


In the summer of 2012, the Duffys experienced adversity, the type that humbled Colin Duffy and taught him never to take life for granted.

His mother nearly died.

While on a family vacation in Colorado, Linda Duffy fell some 40 feet from a cliff after the trail she was on slipped off the mountain because it had rain earlier, she said. Linda Duffy, who had been snapping photos, unsuccessfully grabbed at bushes trying to keep from falling, and when she saw she could drop in to water, she kicked off the mountain and somersaulted down the mountain, finally landing into 3 1/2 feet of water. Then she was about two feet away from going over a 50-foot waterfall, but a passerby grabbed her hair, saving her life as she also nearly drowned.

Doctors believed Linda Duffy should've died from the fall, after suffering 26 broken bones and a collapsed lung, Linda Duffy said. Both her legs were broken, as were both her hips, all her ribs, she said, and remarkably there was no internal bleeding.

"It's a miracle from God that I'm alive," she said. "There's over a dozen medical reasons I should be dead. The doctors who retrieved me didn't think I would survive. They didn't think I could survive from where I fell … God is good. You never know what's going to happen. You can't waste time with trivial issues. You have a short life."

As the oldest of three boys, Colin Duffy did his best to be a leader like his father. He cooked meals and would make sure Kyle, now 15, and Brendan, now 12, cleaned their rooms and finished their homework. The accident actually tightened the family bond, Linda Duffy said. Kyle and Brendan will miss their older brother when he leaves for Duke.

Linda Duffy was in the hospital for six weeks and when she arrived home she was bedridden for nearly four more months. Colin Duffy had to empty the commode every day.

But Colin Duffy saw his mother rehabilitate and regain her health.

"For me that was a very humbling moment in my life," Colin Duffy said of the entire ordeal. "It really brought me back home and I realized there are more important things than the materialistic stuff. And family is a really big part of life. That made me realize that we take a lot of things for granted. It was a setback but we learned a lot from it. I'm very happy that my mom is OK and we all came out learning something."


Colin Duffy is a remarkable student. He could be labeled as a genius, as he has had all A's throughout high school and ends with a 4.7 grade-point average. Duffy, the CIF Southern Section Male Student-Athlete of the Year for Newport Harbor, took on 12 advance placement/international baccalaureate classes.

But he isn't perfect.

Mr. Rob Henthorn, the NHHS band teacher known for his passion for music, wished Colin Duffy could've been more involved with band but he couldn't because of all the IB courses.

"There's just no way to do it all," Henthorn said. "He has talent and a good work ethic. If we had more time with him we could have made him better. But he's good and he can enjoy music for the rest of his life."


When it comes to high school sailing, Colin Duffy is known as a skipper. But he's also known as, "The Duffman," a nickname he embraces. The name is based on his last name, but it also comes from the superhero pitchman for Duff beer in "The Simpsons."

Duffy says he has had fun with sailing. It's one of the opportunities he's taken advantage of.

"The Duffman is the man," said Charlie Underwood, a coach who is in charge of races at Newport Harbor Yacht Club. "He's one of the best I've had. I love coaching football players. They bring a sense of discipline. He's always extremely helpful. He got the Shirt-Off-The-Back award couple of years ago for our year-ending awards because that's what he would do."


There's more to Colin Duffy than a label like, "genius."

In addition to his other demanding activities, Duffy is also an Eagle Scout, with over 300 hours of community service. He completed a major project, raising $2,500 to have the former wood shop converted into a functional science classroom at Ensign Intermediate.

With so much on his plate, it's mind-boggling he had time for a girlfriend, Sabrina Weiler, who is on the NHHS girls' golf team.

"We haven't hit the links," Colin Duffy says. "But we've been to the driving range."

Colin Duffy, who plans to major in economics and computer science, said he has gotten a great experience with all the activities and it has helped him communicate with different types of people. Still, he endured teasing for being a specialty player on the football team and a "band geek."

But that never seemed to faze him. He concentrated on his life, and goals.

"I spent a lot of time thinking about this so I can be at peace with it," Duffy said of graduating. "Newport Harbor High School and Newport Beach have offered me so much. That's over 17 years of my life. I created so many memories. Newport Harbor really pushed me in the right direction, and so did the football team. I can't be happier with my high school experience. It's going to be a bittersweet moment. But I can't be more excited to move on."

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times