Duffy hits ground running with FSU staff, teammates

AJ Duffy wasn’t even a teenager when he first met Mike Norvell. The son of a high school coach, Norvell had built a relationship on the recruiting trail and connected with Pete Duffy.

“That’s a big part of choosing to come here because of the relationship they built and just the trust my dad has with them and then the trust I have with coach,” Duffy said on Wednesday in his first interview with the media who cover Florida State.

Duffy has had a busy few months, signing with FSU on Dec. 15 before playing in the Under Armour All-America game and then arriving in Tallahassee for classes. He’s used the last month to get a jump on academics and get to know his teammates better.

“Life has been good here,” Duffy said. “A little cold weather, that’s the only thing that bothered me. Workouts, school, just getting in the swing of things, just learning campus. … You get an extra spring ball and you get to come here earlier and just learn more and just lift earlier. Every aspect of it was why I chose to do it.”

Duffy committed to FSU in April 2021 and was a frequent visitor to Tallahassee. He made trips to campus on June 1, the first day that the prolonged NCAA-mandated dead period was lifted. Duffy also returned for games in September and November, building relationships with FSU coaches and players along the way.

“Once I committed I was just all about FSU,” Duffy said. “I didn’t waver so I just wanted to really meet everyone, just talk to everyone, just do as much as I could even though I wasn’t here yet.”

While Kenny Dillingham left for Oregon, the FSU offensive staff has stayed consistent. Beyond Norvell, Duffy was able to spend time with offensive line coach Alex Atkins throughout the fall and often met with Tony Tokarz, too. While there are changes in roles for those coaches, it’s the same faces Duffy has been around for months.

“He’s a great guy and me and my dad both love him,” Duffy said of Tokarz, who is now the quarterbacks coach.

Before Atkins was promoted to a dual role as offensive coordinator and OL coach, he told the Osceola about what he saw in watching film of Duffy.

“Got to watch him life and just his whole demeanor,” Atkins said. “He’s cool, calm and collected. He runs the ship. That’s what you need. He’s active in recruiting. He’s a team-mentality guy. He was like, ‘Coach, who are we getting? Where are we going with this thing?’ I always enjoy guys when you see guys that are going to captain the ship and come in and be the guy, and also he wasn’t fearful of competition. A lot of guys start looking around the room and making decisions. He looked at himself and said, ‘I’m good with wherever I go with.’ I appreciate that because it lets you know what kind of kid he is.”

Duffy often said on Wednesday that he has spent the past month learning. He deflected questions about competing for a starting job and was often appreciative of what coaches and teammates have done to help him get acclimated to FSU, including quarterback Jordan Travis.

“I have a great relationship with Jordan,” Duffy said. “I’ve learned a ton of stuff from him. He’s been helping me learn the offense, teaching me the nuances of it and then he’s been helping me with Tour of Duty and just the workouts and he’s just kind of been there for me. He’s a great resource.”

Duffy is a student of the game, growing up around the sport and sitting in and learning from his dad at a young age.

“I really enjoy watching film,” Duffy said. “Being a coach’s kid, I kind of grew up just watching film and messing around, doodling and plays all the time. I just like everything about it, just learning. Right now, it’s mostly focused on learning the new offense so it’s more installs and more stuff like that. But it’s still a lot of fun. Just get after it as much as I can.”

Duffy has also decided to become more involved in the community, making a deal with the local Boys and Girls Club (along with Travis and safety Jammie Robinson) to spend time with Tallahassee youth. The deal was announced on Tuesday by Rising Spear, which is coordinating some NIL deals with FSU athletes.

“I’m super excited to be part of that,” Duffy said. “It was cool because the first time I’d ever played an organized football game was actually through a Boys and Girls Club. We had a little flag football league.”

Duffy said he is excited for the start of spring practice, which will begin the first week of March. When asked about FSU’s influx of transfer receivers as well as the talent in the room, Duffy said he’s ready to hit the field.

“Our receiving corps is great,” Duffy said. “It’s gonna make my job a lot easier. All the quarterbacks’ jobs easy. Just get it near them. Those guys are special so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”