GoDuke Weekly l www.GoDuke.com/gdw
By A.J. Carr
W.D. (Dub) Fesperman’s theme song could
have been “On The Road Again.” As an NFL scout for 22 years, the former two-
sport Duke athlete traveled more than country music legend Willie Nelson. Before his retirement in 2002, Fesperman
spent most of his talent-hunting career with the Houston Oilers, who turned into the Tennessee Ti- tans. He’d stash a suitcase and film projector in his car and wheel up and down the East coast, from Maine to Florida, stopping on college campuses to check out prospects. Study tapes. Watch practice. Stay up late at night filing reports. That was the routine. “We didn’t do all the testing they do now,’’ said
Fesperman, 77, who lives in Advance with Marie, his wife of 56 years. “We timed them in the 20 and 40 (yard dashes); did the broad jump, vertical jump and bench press. That’s about all.” Fesperman looked beyond test scores. A play-
er’s character, attitude and production under game fire were more important. “If a quarterback had good numbers, you figure
he must be pretty good,” Fesperman said. “Produc- tion. That’s the important thing.” Film study revealed insight about linemen’s
abilities. Defensive backs were the most difficult to evaluate, he said, unless a scout knew the player’s specific assignment in the varying schemes. On his rating scale of 1-10, the highest mark
the strict-grading Fesperman remembers giving any player was an “8.” That was to Auburn running back Bo Jackson, who went on to star in the NFL and play major league baseball. Fesperman, who turned to scouting after sev-
eral coaching stints, simply had an eye for spotting talent and potential. In the 1997 draft he convinced management to pick over-looked wide receiver Der- rick Mason in the fourth round. “Sometime you really had to jump up on the
table and fight for your guy,’’ said Fesperman, who did that in the case of Mason. Turns out, Mason turned into a star for the Ti-
tans and and Baltimore Ravens. In eight of his 13 NFL seasons he has had 1,000-plus receiving yards. Players command the spotlight. Scouts generally hover in the shadows, helping build teams with little fanfare or public recognition. It can be a tricky business. High draft choices have flopped. Free agents have flourished. “Sometimes you are misled,’’ said Fesperman.
“A lot of guys who are great in college can’t do any- more (in the pros). That’s what drives you crazy. It’s
Where Are They Now?
Where Are They Now?... W.D. (Dub) Fesperman
hit or miss, a little bit of a guessing game.”
GOOD OLD DUKE DAYS
Before looking for players who could produce,
Fesperman was a productive athlete himself -- first at Gray High in Winston-Salem, then at Duke. A 5-11, 210-pound lineman, he lettered three
years in football, started as a senior and went both ways under Hall-of-Fame Coach Bill Murrary. Dur- ing his tenure, the Blue Devils won or shared three ACC titles and walloped Nebraska 34-7 in the 1953 Orange Bowl. Not that there weren’t some hard knocks along
the way. Like many players in the fifties, Fesperman didn’t wear a face guard until his senior year -- and that was a single bar over the nose. “We’d break five or six on cold days,’’ he said.
“We didn’t think much about it. You’d get a bloody nose every practice and every game.” Fesperman is a modest, soft-spoken man who
doesn’t like to talk about his accomplishments. But Jerry Barger, a former star Duke quarterback, spoke for his old teammate and long-time friend. “(Dub) didn’t get a lot of recognition, but he
was a good football player, a good athlete,” Barger said.
In baseball, back in the wooden-bat era, Fes- perman bedeviled opposing pitchers. A catcher and infielder, he batted .357 his se-
nior season, made first team All-ACC and helped Duke win the conference championship. Overall, he was a busy ballplayer competent in two sports, which is seldom seen in this era. “In the spring, I’d practice baseball at about
12:30, then go to football practice,’’ Fesperman said. “It was pretty demanding. (And) you had to have some time to study.” Fesperman and Marie, who were high school
sweethearts, married after his freshman year. She worked. He played ball -- and went to class. After graduating, Fesperman coached about 18
years in high school and college, making stops as an assistant at Wake Forest, Tulane, Georgia Tech, Massachusetts and Dartmouth. Then he switched to scouting, first working with NFL combines before joining the Oilers/Titans.
WINDS OF CHANGE
The pace is slower now and Fesperman feels
the impact of those pad-popping days on the football field.
“I’ve got bad wheels,’’ he said, referring to his legs. “I don’t play golf now. I do some yard work”
--when Marie gives him a nudge. But after about five decades in football, travel-
ing thousands of miles and spending hundreds of hours watching film, practices and filing scouting re- ports, Fesperman is content with the quieter life. Among his biggest thrills is spending time with
Marie, their two daughters and four grandsons, whose ages range between nine and 21. In the fall they travel to Duke football games with the Barg- ers.
“He can really analyze,’’ said Barger. “He’ll say:
“Did you see that tackle?’ I say: ‘No, I was watching the backs.’” Both Barger and Fesperman like the way third- year coach David Cutcliffe is leading the program. “He’s doing the right things and saying the right
things,” Fesperman said. “I hope they can keep the recruiting going and the academic people give him help.”
As for the NFL, Fesperman keeps an eye on
the pros, though not with the same intensity as a scout. He was glad to see Florida’s Tim Tebow go in the first round -- to Denver. “He has some throwing faults,’’ Fesperman
said. “But I’ll tell you one thing, I would want him on my team.” During last week’s draft, Fesperman was on
the road again -- only this time it was a pleasure trip with Marie to their cabin retreat in Sparta.
This Week In Duke Athletic History
April 26, 1988
Senior baseball catcher Gregg Maluchnik hits a game-winning single in the 9th inning to beat host Maryland (Maluchnik is the Duke career RBI leader at this time).
April 27, 1946
Ray Brown, back from 42 months of infantry service in the Pacific during World War II, scores three goals as Duke, with eight starters from the Baltimore area, travels to College Park and beat Maryland 12-4 in what is hailed as one of the greatest upsets in lacrosse history.
April 28, 2004
Virada Nirapathpongporn wins the Nancy Lo- pez Award, given to the world’s most outstanding female amateur golfer.
April 29, 1988
Duke baseball player Vaughn Schill goes 3-3, scoring four runs, with a pair of doubles and a homer in a 19-12 win against UNC Wilmington.
April 30, 1997
Duke freshman Karin Miller is named the South- east Region Rookie of the Year in women’s tennis, while Blue Devil interim coach Jaime Ashworth earns the first Southeast Region assistant coach of the year award.
The official online magazine of Duke Athletics
Managing Editors Contributors Design Staff Writers
Jon Jackson Matt Plizga
Ben Blevins, Lindy Brown Art Chase, Chris Cook
Meredith Rieder, John Roth Colin Small, Ashley Wolf
Chris Cook Brad Jones Matt Plizga
Lance Thomas A.J. Carr
Al Featherston Barry Jacobs Jim Sumner
Michael Tomko YUDU
Letters to the editor and general feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org
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