Anthony Young-Wiseman, Son of D.C. News Anchor, Hoping to Shine at Duke
Then again, because of one relative in particular, Young-Wiseman -- who is getting a smattering of playing time after missing all of last season with a knee injury suffered in fall practice -- might have more people rooting for him than expected. His mother, Shawn Yancy, is the co-anchor of one of the most popular and most-decorated evening newscasts in Washington, D.C., on the city's FOX affiliate. In a major hotbed of Duke loathing, Yancy, of course, has no hesitation picking sides between her local audience's home team and the eldest of her three sons.
"On my Facebook status this week, I'm just putting one word, 'Duke,' up there,'' she said earlier this week, laughing. "And I'll get all these nasty messages.''
Otherwise, though, she hasn't used her highly visible position to brag publicly about Young-Wiseman -- and he hasn't played up her celebrity status, either, even though his teammates know and those who also came from the area had seen her on the air regularly. "I'm aware that she is,'' he said, "but I'm not the type that says, 'Hey, my mom's on the news.' It's real cool, and people ask a lot about it, but I don't put it out there myself. I don't treat it that way. She's my mom.''
What he does enjoy talking about is how active she was in helping him pick Duke -- and, at the same time, how much she and her husband, Marcus, made sure they didn't make the final call for him. Young-Wiseman was a three-sport star and one of the top players in the Washington area as a senior at Walt Whitman High in suburban Bethesda, Md. -- and his presence at Whitman, perennially one of the most highly rated public schools (during his senior year, it made the cover of U.S. News & World Report), allowed him to set his sights high.
His father, who coached him in youth football and had been a walk-on at Ball State, lent his knowledge, and his mother stressed that when talking about her son's recruiting, "I will always say 'we' played an enormous role ... It was a team effort.''
But Yancy -- who said she never attended a football game in college, also at Ball State -- could relate to the concept of making a critical choice at a young age.
"It is very similar to going into television: you know all the markets, you gather as much information as possible on all of them, and you're really recruiting them as much as they're recruiting you,'' Yancy said. "I was familiar with that process. It wasn't scary. It was different, but it wasn't scary.'' She and her husband had gone on a similar recruiting search soon after moving from Pittsburgh to take the TV job in Washington, when they were picking a school district for the then-10-year-old Anthony.
Her chosen field also came in handy for Young-Wiseman in a more specific way. When the interest in him from schools began increasing in his junior year in high school, Yancy noticed that players and coaches sending DVDs of their play to recruiters was common practice. Between the resources at her disposal and those available at the high school for breaking down film for the team to study, the family put together a highlight reel, had a colleague of hers set it to music, added graphics -- his stats and measurables, including his grade-point average -- and created a 6 1/2-minute package that can still be found on YouTube.
"In this whole age of social media, we posted it everywhere,'' she said.
"It was really nice,'' Young-Wiseman said. "I was very lucky to have that done for me. I'm thankful that her friend was able to do that, and that she knows people that could do that.''
Of course, it wasn't like he was much of a secret. The strong, speedy Young-Wiseman played three positions, returned kicks and even lined up in punt formation occasionally (to run fakes) in high school. He narrowed his choices to Maryland, West Virginia, Syracuse and Duke, with one finalist standing out because it was several decades removed from real success, and historically has been the polar opposite of its basketball program.
But Young-Wiseman picked Duke -- and its then-new head coach, David Cutcliffe -- in the summer before his senior year of 2008-09. "I was drawn by the change that was happening, and the change that's going to happen,'' he said. "And there has been a change, even looking at the workouts in the summer. The program's getting bigger and stronger and faster. It's starting to take hold.''
In fact, he said, the 17-13 win over Maryland in Durham last season, Cutcliffe's second, was one of the milestones the program could take pride in: it was the Blue Devils' second straight ACC win last season, something they hadn't accomplished since 1994; it broke a five-game losing streak to the Terps and was only their fifth win over the longtime conference power since 1973, and it got them over .500 at that point in the season, at 4-3, and into Coastal Division contention before fading to a 5-7 finish, still their best record in 15 years.
Young-Wiseman's mother admitted she had secretly hoped he would pick Duke because of its academics, yet never had any intention of influencing him that way. "I think she had a lot of influence on my choice,'' said Young-Wiseman, who turns 20 two Sundays from now, "but in the end, she left the decision up to me. She helped me compare them all, but the final decision was mine.''
"We are so proud of him,'' Yancy said. "He told us it was not just about the next four years, it was about the next 40 years of his life as well. And he wanted to have a chance to be part of what they're building there at Duke.'' His only mild reservation? "He said, 'You might get some ribbing from your friends,'' she recalled, "'but don't worry about it.'''
Getting validation from the results this season is harder than the previous year. Duke's loss at Army last week dropped it to 1-3, with the lone win against Elon in the opener in which the 27 points it gave up is a season low. Young-Wiseman's season highlight came in that game, his first as a collegian, when he forced a fumble; in all, he has played 46 defensive snaps and has made six tackles. He said he feels as if all the strength in his post-operative knee has returned, but that he has more speed to regain.
"We're being patient,'' he said, adding that his playing time "is slowly increasing as the weeks go by.''
He's also being patient about deciding on a major -- although, he said with a laugh, it likely won't be broadcasting.
The odds are good that he will play Saturday on his trip back home, in front of a knot of blue-clad family and friends in a sea of passionate, rivalry-driven red. "I will tell you,'' Yancy said, "this is a really interesting situation.''
It could be for those who are fans of hers five nights a week, but not of her son's team on Saturday -- or any other night.