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
Even now, Duckett still hears about that play, he figures, at least every other day.
"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."
Here's a look at the other members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class:
A Detroit native and Birmingham Brother Rice graduate, Armstrong, 50, went on to a fine college career at Iowa (his No. 10 is retired) before a lengthy career in the NBA. The point guard, who was the 18th overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft, won three world championships with the Chicago Bulls (1991-93), and also played for the Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic. He is now a player agent.
A Detroit native who starred in high school at Saint Martin de Porres, she went on to a great basketball career at the University of Tennessee, winning two national championships. A power forward, the Women's Basketball Hall-of-Famer also played on the 1992 Olympics team that won bronze, played briefly in the WNBA and coached at Detroit Mercy, Auburn and Tennessee. She died in April at the age of 49.
He had a basketball coaching career that lasted 45 years, and included stops at Saginaw High School, which he guided to two state-finals appearances; Central Michigan (head coach, 1985-91, with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1987); and Miami of Ohio (head coach, 1996-2012). He also was an assistant coach at Detroit Mercy in the 1980s. He died in 2013, at the age of 71.
A native of Brighton, he went on to a historic career at Grand Valley, becoming the winningest quarterback in college-football history, at any level, with a 51-4 record. After spending a red-shirt season at Toledo, he transferred to Grand Valley, and he led the Lakers to Division II national championships in 2003, '05 and '06. In May 2013, Finnerty went missing on a fishing trip, and died of pneumonia and CTE. He was 30.
A Bloomfield Hills native who attended Detroit Country Day, which she led to a state soccer championship, she went on to star at Notre Dame, and then as a professional and a key member of the U.S. Women's National Team. She played in three Olympics and won three medals, including gold in 2008, when she was captain of the team. Sobrero-Markgraf, 41, got into broadcasting in retirement, and now lives in Milwaukee.
A defensive end, he was the Lions' first-round draft pick (No. 26 overall) in 1992, and he went on to play his entire 13-year career in Detroit. Porcher, 48, played in three Pro Bowls, was named All-Pro three times, and finished his career with a team-record 95.5 sacks. A whopping 68 of those came during one especially productive six-year span, from 1996-2001. He also totaled 673 tackles.
McCabe has been a staple in the Detroit sports scene for nearly 50 years, as a sportswriter with the Detroit Free Press, mostly covering high schools and colleges. He retired late in 2016, but has since returned as a contributor. He is a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame. This year, Michigan's Miss Basketball award was named in honor of McCabe, 68.
The 2018 festivities also will honor Dean Look, who was unable to attend his induction ceremony in 2007. Look, 80, a Lansing native, played quarterback at Michigan State, also played for the Chicago White Sox, and had a 29-year career as an NFL official, with three Super Bowls.
Also to be recognized, as part of the Hall of Fame's "Michigan Treasure" series: Ryan Shay, a Ypsilanti native won star distance runner who died in 2007 during U.S. Olympic trials.
Tickets for the ceremony are on sale at michigansportshof.org, and start at $25.