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September 30, 2010NC State fans may have noticed a new number among the offensive line regulars against Georgia Tech last Saturday. He was No. 62, Duran Christophe, a 6-6, 287-pound redshirt freshman.
Christophe had played a grand total of 26 snaps combined in State's first three games. Against the Yellow Jackets, the second-string left guard played 63 snaps and helped the Pack to a 45-28 victory.
"It always feels good to play and win," Christophe said.
Christophe's first extensive playing time may have been a tad sweeter, given his background in Georgia. From his sophomore year through graduation he attended Woodstock (Ga.) High, which is a little more than a half hour away from Atlanta.
"I guess you could say it was a homecoming," Christophe said. "I got a lot of friends, and my coach is there. We had 15 or 16 tickets, and I knew some of the players from Georgia Tech. I got some family there."
Christophe, however, does not consider himself a native of Woodstock. His true home is New Orleans.
"I'm New Orleans all day," Christophe noted.
Christophe was a freshman in high school when he left New Orleans one day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall near the city on Aug. 29, 2005. He left the city with no idea that life in New Orleans would never be the same after Katrina moved inland.
"When we were leaving, I was thinking I'll be coming right back and that I was going to have school the next day whenever we come back from what we are doing," Christophe recalled.
Of course, that would not be the case. Christophe rode out the storm at Jackson State in Jackson, Miss., where one of his relatives was a dean at the school at the time. He watched on television as the levees were breached and the city flooded. Christophe's house was among those that was affected by the rising waters.
"There was a lot of mold, coming from the flood," Christophe noted.
Christophe's family relocated to Woodstock, where Christophe immediately landed a spot on the varsity football roster. It was then that the realization of what had happened in New Orleans started hitting him.
"Once I moved into the Woodstock High School I was like, 'Now I know I am not coming back anytime soon,'" Christophe stated. "I was kind of nonchalant about it until a lot of people came up to me telling me how sorry they are and stuff like that. I was a little emotional then, but other than that I guess it worked out pretty good.
"I would've loved to go back home, but Woodstock - that was my new home."
Christophe's family eventually did make the move back to New Orleans after he graduated from Woodstock.
"I go back all the time," Christophe said with a smile.
Christophe emerged as a standout offensive tackle at Woodstock. He was selected to the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game after his senior season in 2008, and Rivals.com rated him as a three-star prospect and the No. 81 offensive tackle in the country. He had offers from Central Florida, East Carolina, Indiana, Louisville, Middle Tennessee State, NC State, Tulane and UAB. He visited Louisville Dec. 12 and then NC State a week later. Christophe committed to the Pack following his visit to Raleigh.
Christophe redshirted the 2009 season at NC State, and then was dealt a setback when diagnosed with mononucleosis shortly before preseason camp started in August.
Mononucleosis is a viral disease that can zap a person's energy while it runs its course. Patients, especially athletes, have to be careful that they do not participate in strenuous physical activities because they risk rupturing their spleen.
Christophe was sidelined for about a month with the disease, but he did not lose any weight.
"I actually gained some," he noted.
He also used the time wisely. He studied the inner workings of the offensive line, and once cleared he worked with strength and conditioning coach Todd Rice to get on the field quickly.
"I was sick about a month or something like that, maybe six weeks," he recalled. "It was just watching. Maybe it was good because I learned a lot. I changed positions from tackle to guard, so that helped - just watch and getting back in shape with Coach Rice, so I was able to get right back in."
Offensive guard was a new position for Christophe. He had been exclusively an offensive tackle throughout his career, but the move has been a smooth one for him.
"I think it's a little easier," Christophe said. "I always got help, so if you mess up someone is right there."
Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien was confident that Christophe would handle the assignment when Christophe was called into duty against Georgia Tech.
"He is a big, powerful body," O'Brien said. "He absorbed some of those blitzes, he didn't get knocked back at all. He's a young kid that is learning the game. He certainly has ability. We've liked him from the time he's got here because he is that physical-type of player, strong player. I think he gained a lot of confidence on Saturday playing."