Tufts Player Makes Duke Football Squad

William Holmquist, A17, won a spot as placekicker for the Division 1 Blue Devils as a redshirt senior
William Holquist in a 2016 Tufts football game
William Holmquist, A17, left, in the first half against Bates in the 2016 homecoming game. “Willie has the talent and the right attitude,” said Jumbos head coach Jay Civetti. Photo: Matthew Healey
August 29, 2017

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William Holmquist took on several challenges while becoming one of the best kickers in the history of the Tufts University football program. The 2017 graduate faced a new one this summer at Duke University, where was a walk-on competing for a spot on the Blue Devil’s Division I football team.

Just like his experience at Tufts, his determination paid off: he is now the starting kicker, suiting up for the Duke season opener on Sept. 2.

A key contributor to Jumbo football’s back-to-back winning seasons in 2015-16, Holmquist’s 11 field goals during the 2015 season is a Tufts record. In 2016 he led the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) with a 38.5-yard punting average. He also holds the Jumbos’ career record with 28 extra points.

Holmquist’s success came while managing a severe hearing loss that he was born with, which compromises his ability to communicate on the field . Though he wears a hearing aid, he takes it out for football games and instead relies on visual cues to get the job done.

“Me not wearing hearing aids during games is like any athlete pregame ritual aimed at getting in the zone,” he said during his junior season at Tufts. “For me, when I take them out, that’s my own mental trigger that I’m going to go out and do my job. There’s no real negative effect.”

Holmquist faced greater obstacles early in his collegiate career. Recruited to play lacrosse at Tufts, he walked on to the football team as a freshman in 2013 and shared the kicking job. He then missed his entire sophomore season with a leg injury that resulted in a blood clot.

Uncertain of his future, he overcame the injury and won the Jumbo kicking job outright as a junior. He booted an overtime game-winning field goal at Hamilton College to start the 2015 season and would go on to become a two-time NESCAC All-Conference honoree for head coach Jay Civetti’s Jumbos.

Holmquist’s tryout at Duke this summer was serendipitous. With a season of eligibility available due to his sophomore year injury, he was looking for a university with a good graduate business school and a football team willing to give a small-college kicker a shot.  Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is one of the best in the country. Civetti, who coached at the DI level prior to coming to Tufts, had a contact at Duke. The Blue Devils, members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, were looking to improve their kicking game.

Kickers with Division III pedigrees making it in Division I has happened before, but it’s not common.

In an intra-squad scrimmage on August 19, Holmquist made an extra point and all three of his field-goal attempts, including two from more than 40 yards out. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe was impressed with Holmquist’s performance, according to a local newspaper.

“Willie has the talent and the right attitude,” Civetti said. “He’s continually improving as a kicker and has worked really hard to achieve what he has. If anyone can do it, it’s Willie.”

Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney can be reached at paul.sweeney@tufts.edu.

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