After living just 15 minutes away from Hudson Valley in Loudonville, New York, for the first nine years of his life, Duke Santora and his family moved to Suffolk, Virginia, about nine hours away from Hudson Valley.
After nine years, Duke is now back in the area as a student-athlete at Hudson Valley. The individual studies major is currently a defensive back for the Vikings. Since Duke was born in the area, it made his college decision a little bit easier coming out of high school.
“The high school grades weren’t too swell, so I came here to work on those and hopefully transfer out to a four-year school,” said Santora on his decision to come to Hudson Valley.
Santora hopes to play football here and get his grades up, then get into a big-time Division I school.
“Of course, every football player here wants to go D1. I want to go to a D1 school whether it’s either playing football or not playing football. I just like the environment [of a Division I school],” said Santora on his plans after Hudson Valley.
In Hudson Valley’s first football game against Utica JV, a 58-13 victory on the road, Santora showed his team why he could be a Division I athlete. While playing on special teams in the game, he blocked not just one, but two punts, returning each of them for touchdowns and singlehandedly putting 14 points on the scoreboard for his team.
Duke is a 5-foot-10, 170-pound defensive back who loves to play physical football. “I love the physicality, being physical, being brute, hitting people, it’s fun,” said Santora.
Santora also loves to watch physical football. One of his favorite NFL players to watch was former Cleveland Browns and New York Giants running back Peyton Hillis. “He was a physical running back. He just lowered his shoulder and would get the extra yards,” said Santora.
Santora played high school football at King’s Fork High School in Suffolk, Virginia. “There was a lot of competition. I was about 5 foot 7, and since I am small, I just had to be extra physical,” said Santora.
Santora is not the only Hudson Valley football player from Virginia. His teammates Hashim Sesay and Unique Johnson are also both from Virginia. Even though they grew up in the same state, Duke never met Sesay or Johnson in his high school football days.
Now that Santora is in his freshman year at college, he has been playing some type of football for 13 years, as he started to play the game very early.
“At a young age, my Dad just kind of put me into it, and I was probably around five years old. I started playing flag football, so … I have been playing it for a long time,” said Santora.
The Loudonville, New York, and Suffolk, Virginia, native looks to build on this season with Hudson Valley and use it as a springboard to the future.