Monarch Feature Story: Jonathan Duhart Comes Back Strong
By ODU Athletics
By Harry Minium
Jonathan Duhart was attempting to block a UMass linebacker last season when another linebacker stepped on his leg. As they fell to the turf, he felt his right foot crumple.
He emerged with a bloody gash on his leg, but soon realized that the bleeding wasn’t the major issue. It was the pain in his foot, which was unbearable.
It has to be broken, he thought to himself.
It took a ride to a Massachusetts hospital for an x-ray to confirm it. The reality of what that meant didn’t sink in until he was back at the game, rooting ODU on to a 17-7 victory. Offensive coordinator Brian Scott sat next to him and said, “Jonathan, you’re probably done for the season”
That’s when the tears began. Duhart was a senior on a team with little depth at wide receiver. He was supposed to replace graduated senior Zach Pascal, ODU’s all-time leading pass receiver now with the Indianapolis Colts, as the go-to guy.
“I knew I was probably done, but to hear it like that, I couldn’t stop the tears,” he said.
Ahead was surgery and months of painful rehabilitation. But Dewey, as his teammates call him, said the most painful thing was watching his teammates struggle to a 5-7 record
“It was so hard to be able to do nothing but stand and watch,” he said.
Duhart isn’t standing and any more. He’s running again, and with more bounce in his jaunt than ever. He received a medical redshirt from the NCAA, and thus another year of eligibility, and he’s making the most of it.
Although ODU has lost its first three games, Duhart has been a standout for the Monarchs, who host Virginia Tech Saturday night in a game that is sold out and will be played on national television.
He’s caught 17 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns. He’s averaging a league-high 120 yards per game. And this on an offense that has yet to begin executing nearly as well as coach Bobby Wilder expected.
Duhart excelled during the months-long rehabilitation process, coach Wilder said.
“You think about all of the running and jumping and cutting you have to do as a wide receiver,” Wilder said. “He dealt with a lot of pain.
“We’ve had to pull him back from doing too much. There are things we’ve had to say no to. He’s so passionate about football.
“Having him back has made all the difference in the world. You never realize how valuable a football player is until you lose him.”
Duhart was a coveted recruit for ODU, a 3-star wide receiver at Manchester High School in suburban Richmond, whose final list included Syracuse, Rutgers and James Madison.
His mother, Verna, a Smithfield native and an ODU graduate, didn’t try to persuade him to go to one school or another.
“I fell in love with the program right away,” he said. “One of the attractions was the ability to make history here, not just add to the history others made.”
Duhart was a part of the history-making team in 2016 that won a school-record ten games and defeated Eastern Michigan in the Bahamas in ODU’s first bowl game.
Duhart played as a true freshman in 2014 out of necessity when ODU’s depth at wide receiver was paper thin. He was a role player who caught just seven passes, yet entered this season as ODU’s sixth all-time leading receiver.
His mother wanted him to redshirt, but “me being a 17 years old, an adrenalin rushed kid, I wanted to play,” he said. “I wished I’d been able to redshirt, but there’s no looking back.”
Academics are important in his family. His Mom is a systems analyst for the Richmond Police and his father, Bobby, is a pediatrician in Petersburg.
His younger brother, Aaron, plays basketball for Army. His youngest brother Andrew, is a sophomore who plays football and basketball for Trinity Episcopal in Richmond.
Duhart’s parents provided a wonderful home in a safe, attractive, neighborhood, but his Dad also wanted him to have a taste of the real world. So he enrolled Jonathan in rec league basketball close to his pediatric practice in Petersburg.
“It toughened me up,” Duhart said.
Duhart graduated with a degree in criminal justice last December and hopes to earn a second degree in psychology in December. When he’s done with football, he wants to go to graduate school.
Duhart said he ‘wouldn’t change a thing,” about his ODU career. “I came here to try to make history and we did. I’ve gotten to play in some big games and has some big moments, and made a lot of good friends.
“It’s been an interesting ride.”