KALAMAZOO, Mich. (BVM) — Nearly two decades ago, T.J. Duckett — now known as Todd Duckett — was just starting his NFL career. Drafted 18th overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, Duckett was poised to become one of the top running backs in the league.
Growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Duckett attended Loy Norrix High School where he was a consensus All-American. While he did play running back, Duckett was also a talented linebacker, and was rated as one of the best at the position in the nation.
However, the football standout was hoping to play running back in college, and received the opportunity to do so from now legendary coach, Nick Saban, at Michigan State University. Duckett followed in the footsteps of his older brother who played for the Spartans in the early 1990s.
Duckett burst onto the scene right away for the Spartans as a freshman, amassing 10 of his 30 total touchdowns while at MSU. He had a true breakout in his sophomore year, rushing for 1,353 yards, and improved on that mark as a junior with 1,420.
After the 2001 season, Duckett declared for the NFL Draft. Again, he made an instant impact as a power back for the Falcons alongside fellow running back Warrick Dunn and star quarterback Michael Vick. In each of his first three seasons, Duckett rushed for over 500 yards, highlighted by a 779-yard, 11-touchdown season in 2003.
However, after tailing off a bit in 2005, Duckett would be traded to the Washington Redskins, where he would rush for a career–low 132 yards during the 2006 season. Duckett would post an improved season in 2007 with the Detroit Lions, and capped his career in 2008 with the Seattle Seahawks.
The 2008 season would be the final time Duckett suited up in an NFL game. With an early exit from the league after a career that may not have quite lived up to the billing considering what he did at Michigan State, Duckett’s life changed, and at first took a turn for the worse.
In 2009, Duckett was sitting outside of Spartan Stadium in the middle of the night, drunk and depressed. He couldn’t grasp his football career ending, and the depression lasted to the point of contemplating suicide.
However, Duckett persevered through the tough times. After a couple of years, he decided to quit drinking and began fasting, losing 80 pounds. He realized there was more to life than football, and decided he wanted to help others while giving back.
In 2011, Duckett created a new non-profit organization called New World Flood with the goal of helping the less fortunate through several means, whether it was handing out food for Thanksgiving, hosting a flag football tournament called the Battlefield Brawl or donating school supplies to kids.
Aiming to help people give back, Duckett has begun many initiatives through the organization over the years, including launching the Jacquelyn Barham Challenge, a fundraiser which raises awareness about life-threatening illnesses. The challenge is named after Duckett’s mother, who passed away in 2000 after a six-year battle with lymphatic cancer.
In addition, Duckett keeps busy through his clothing design company called The Printing King. He has also worked alongside his brother, Tico, through their janitorial company called Duckett Brothers Distributing.
Through the years, Todd has also become an impactful public speaker, whether talking to kids, adults or military members.
Years after creating some great moments at Michigan State — most notably his two-yard game-winning touchdown catch from quarterback Jeff Smoker as time expired to beat No. 5 Michigan in 2001 — Todd also remains in tune with his alma mater.
Happy Belated Birthday to Spartan QB great Jeff Smoker who turned 38 on June 13th! Who remembers November 3rd, 2001 when Smoker throws a touchdown pass to TJ Duckett on the last play of the game to beat Michigan? #GoGreen pic.twitter.com/MwSszzIVZl
— SpartanCenter (@SpartanCenterig) June 19, 2019
Most recently, Todd was part of the 2021 Spartan Dawg Con event that the MSU football program holds for recruits and alumni. There, he paired with Patchwerk Studios owner Curtis Daniel to discuss entrepreneurship.
— Darien Harris (@DHarris_45) July 31, 2021
Like many former NFL players, Todd had to go through an adjustment to his life after football. Although it was a struggle for him at first, he adapted. Just as he did at Michigan State and throughout his NFL career, Todd has produced at a high level, and many continue to have the chance to benefit from his incredible impact.