Although NC State head coach Tom O'Brien is responsible for bringing Duran Christophe to Raleigh for college, he may have never seen the campus, or played college football, if it wasn't for another influential football coach in his life with the last name O'Brien: his prep coach at Woodstock (Ga.) High, Mike O'Brien.
Christophe originally hails from New Orleans, but his family had to relocate during his freshman year of high school after Hurricane Katrina wrecked havoc on his hometown. He and his family left town the day before Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005. If it was not for the disaster and subsequent move, though, the big man isn't sure if he would have continued playing football.
"[The move] was a good thing because in New Orleans, I wasn't going to play football at all," he remembered. "I guess I was lazy, I don't know but when I came to Georgia, they wouldn't let me not play. I was so big, they needed me to come out there and play; I guess it was a good thing.
"It was just the New Orleans culture, things would be going around and you'd get distracted. My high school coach [after the move] was Coach O'Brien. That man is great, he was one of the best coaches ever. He told me what to do, I did it and I'm here now. Of course [the move] was a positive thing because I'm in school now."
Although Christophe had his reservations about playing football at the start of his high school career, he played on the varsity squad during all three of his years at Woodstock. He ended his prep career ranked as a three-star prospect and the No. 81 offensive tackle in the country, according to Rivals.com.
Now, the 6-foot-6, 305-pounder has no doubts that he belongs on the football field. The Wolfpack football coaches seem to agree, as Christophe was the first guard off the bench last fall, whether they needed someone to step in on the left or right side. The former offensive tackle is happy to help out, no matter where he is needed to play.
"In high school, I was a left tackle but Coach [Don] Horton put me at guard last year," he said. "Wherever they tell me to go, I'll learn it.
"I'm looking forward to playing center one day," he joked. "I'm good wherever, it doesn't matter to me."
After redshirting during his first year on campus, Christophe began last fall atop the organizational chart at left guard heading into spring drills. A bout with mononucleosis forced him to miss much of the preseason, but when he returned to full health, he immediately returned to his dominant self on the front lines, although he was lining up at guard instead of his customary tackle position, which he called home for his entire gridiron career up to that point.
Christophe logged a few snaps in each of the first three contests of the 2010 season before playing 63 snaps against Georgia Tech and 30 more versus Virginia Tech. Then, he suffered an ankle injury that kept him from appearing in the next four games before returning to a reserve role. In the Champs Sports Bowl against West Virginia, the outgoing guard earned the starting spot in place of an injured Andrew Wallace on the left side and played the entire game.
This spring, the rising-redshirt sophomore begins the campaign atop the organizational chart at left guard once again.
"There's a little pressure [being listed as first-string]," he said. "We've got the people behind me on the right and left side that are trying to start so I guess every day, I just have to get a little better.
"The spring is going well, we're a little rusty but with the pads on, we're getting better. We're taking it one step at a time."
Never one to be too serious off the field, Christophe joked that he's been chowing down on a steady diet of pork ribs, which has helped him tip the scales between 305-310 pounds. He said he checked in at 280 pounds when the season ended last fall and time with strength coach Todd Rice hasn't hurt either.
Christophe is enjoying his time in Raleigh, which he has made his permanent home, and mentioned he isn't planning on leaving anytime soon, thanks to a wife he tied the knot with last summer and a baby due on July 17. Despite having so much on his plate, the big man is bringing a large appetite for success to the field this year.
"My expectations are just for us to get better," he said. "I know Mike Glennon is going to throw the ball like crazy and Mustafa Greene is going to run the ball like crazy so I guess if the offensive line [performs], we'll be good."
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