Cliff Dukes woke up about an hour earlier than he needed to one morning at Great Mills's summer football camp at Ferrum College in southwestern Virginia, walked out of his dorm room and toward a small pond.

Then he took off his shoes and slowly sauntered into the shallow pond, in search of a turtle that had caught his eye.

"I walked out of the dorm and saw my beastly fullback knee-deep in this pond," said Great Mills Coach Bill Greer. "He does some goofy things, but he's a great kid to work with."

When you come up with a nickname for a 6-foot-3, 230-pound fullback, he'd better like it. His teammates dubbed Dukes "The Turtleman," and, so far, he's okay with that.

"I like turtles, and it's fun trying to catch them," said Dukes, who included left offensive tackle Roy Olsen in his early-morning endeavor.

Dukes -- who also throws the shot put and discus for the school's track and field team -- has two turtles in his locker. One is a live turtle that he keeps in a bucket and the other is a painted ceramic turtle.

He claims they bring him good luck, and maybe they do: He has been offered a scholarship to Michigan State and he will be a key component in the Hornets' running attack this season along with fellow senior running back Colbert Barnes.

"Last year we wrote a new definition to the word inexperienced," said Greer, whose 0-10 Hornets started 14 sophomores. "But the growth of those two kids is definitely going to have a positive impact for us this season."


"The Program"

"It has so much contact, and I like contact."