Skip to main content

Q&A With Mataeo Durant: Development At Duke, Flying Under The Radar, NFL Future

Duke running back Mataeo Durant in action.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 19: Mataeo Durant #21 of the Duke Blue Devils warms up before the start of a game against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium on October 19, 2019 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

There are always a few running backs that fly under the radar in the draft process that turn out to be impact players in the NFL. Though it’s still early, it feels like Duke running back Mataeo Durant belongs in that category.

Despite rushing for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021, Durant hasn’t really been mentioned in the conversation for the best running back in this year’s draft. But that’s just fine for the First-Team All-ACC performer.

Durant believes his game speaks for itself. Over the past four years, he has taken strides in the right direction, improving his overall abilities as a runner and pass catcher.

We caught up with Mataeo Durant to discuss his Duke career, preparation for the NFL Draft and much more.

The Spun: You were always a playmaker at Duke, but you really took your game to another level this past season. What led to that production?

Mataeo Durant: I just feel like it was a combination of a lot of things. I didn’t get as many opportunities early on in my career, but I learned a lot from the older guys in the locker room. I learned a lot from Deon Jackson. He taught me a lot of things that helped me prepare for my time to be the guy in Duke’s offense. When my time came, I made the most of my opportunity.

The Spun: Have you had conversations with Deon about what to expect in the NFL?

MD: Deon is like a big brother to me. He took me under my wing. We were always spending time together off the field. He keeps me up to date with what I should do in order to make sure I’m ready for the league.

The Spun: Do you feel like you’ve shown growth as a pass catcher over the past few years?

MD: I’m comfortable with the strides I’ve made in that department. I feel like there’s always room to grow. It doesn’t matter if you’re running the ball or catching the ball. You don’t want to peak; you always want to get better and better. I think I showed that throughout my time at Duke.

The Spun: What’s the most important lesson you learned from David Cutcliffe?

MD: I’d say he taught us to be accountable and be a good teammate. He said people will always remember how you made them feel. I think that’s something important to keep in mind going into the NFL.

The Spun: You were able to play for Coach Cutcliffe for several years. Were you a bit surprised the program parted ways with him?

MD: We were just focused on our schedule during the season. We didn’t really worry about distractions. I feel like sometimes change can be good. I believe in Coach Elko. I think he’ll do a great job at Duke.

The Spun: Which running backs do you like to study on film?

MD: I would say Aaron Jones. His playing style and size is similar to mine. I remember when I first started training people would ask me who my favorite running back is. I would say Ezekiel Elliott at the time, but then people would tell me that I should pick a player who has a similar stature or build. That made me start thinking about which running back is similar to me.

The Spun: You were an All-ACC performer this past season, yet it almost feels like you’re not getting enough credit. Do you feel that way too?

MD: Personally, I feel like I’m flying under the radar. My numbers speak for themselves. My production increased every year at Duke.

The Spun: What would you say is your best attribute heading into the NFL?

MD: I would say it’s my versatility. I can make tackles on special teams, catch passes, pass block and run the football.

The Spun: What are you trying to improve during this process?

MD: I’d say that sometimes I try to do too much. I got to take what the defense gives me. That’ll open up a whole new level for my game.

The Spun: What is an NFL team getting in Mataeo Durant?

MD: Overall, an NFL team is getting someone who is accountable for their actions, a good teammate, always reliable and willing to complete whatever job is given to them.

The Spun: What would it mean to you to hear your name called during the draft?

MD: It would mean everything to me. I came from a small town. I just feel like it would show that my circumstances didn’t change my standards. It would mean so much to me and my family. My parents put so much hard work into this process. I’d be so happy to hear my name called in the draft.

Mataeo Durant had a strong performance at his pro day, completing the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds and posting a 35-inch vertical.

NFL teams in need of help at running back would be wise to keep an eye on Durant on Day 3 of the draft.

You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.