DURHAM — Every time David Cutcliffe has taken the field for Duke, he’s had a shadow. As Coach Cut makes his way through the smoke, with pyrotechnics exploding on either side of him, he’s surrounded by dozens of much larger athletes, wearing pads and running much faster, filled with game-time energy, and one other person. A step behind him, off to one side, eyes shaded by a wide-brimmed hat and trained on the stands, is a member of the North Carolina Highway Patrol.
For the last eight years, Cutcliffe’s shadow has been Trooper Brian Moseley. Saturday’s home game against Miami will be his last game in the job, as he informed Cutcliffe last week that he would be stepping down to spend more time with his family.
“He’s a great husband,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s a great dad. He’s got three children, pretty small, all 11 and under.”
The kids are decidedly not on board with the decision.
“I told Coach Cut, they told me, ‘Don’t give up football, Daddy. Don’t give it up!’” Moseley said. “I told them sometimes in life, you know when it’s time for a change, hopefully to benefit yourself. I think it’s time for me to step down and let somebody else take my place and have the opportunity I’ve had and some of the great moments that Duke University and Coach Cutcliffe have provided me with.”
Cutcliffe is not unique. Just about every college football coach gets a police escort — a trooper who is assigned to him for game day — for security. He’ll clear a path through the sometimes-chaotic post-game scene on the field and make sure that the trips down the tunnel in both directions are uneventful.
“Basically, just make sure that Coach has safe travels,” he said. “On and off the field, to the stadium, around Duke (for home games), doing the Duke Walk, make sure there’s no threats to his safety and the players’ also.”
Moseley also accompanies Duke on the road. That’s obviously a bit more difficult with a crowd that’s less friendly to having Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils there, as well as the unfamiliar environment.
“You’re not used to it,” he said of the road venues. “Some of the ACC teams, we go to those places every other year, but the teams that we don’t play often, you have to learn their facilities — different stuff, like where the coach is going to for his press conferences. I’ll ask when we get there, ‘Hey, where’s the press room?’ I’ll locate different exits, safety measures like that.”
So far, Moseley hasn’t had any situations get out of hand — no overly aggressive fans or projectiles from the stands.
“We’ve had some little minor situations, but nothing to that degree,” he said. “That’s what we want. We don’t want anything that’s going to turn out bad. We’re here to try to read and prevent stuff like that from happening.”
Strangely, for much of the day, Moseley is off the clock and can enjoy an up-close view of the game.
“We stay on the sideline,” he said, “and, of course, a few minutes before the game or half ends, we’ll find Coach and help escort him off the field.”
Between the entrance and exit, however?
“I’m watching the game,” he said. “Once we get down (to the field), because we have event staff. My main thing is getting on and off the field, watching what’s going on around him.”
Moseley will have a say in choosing his successor, just like the previous trooper assigned to Duke got to recommend him.
“I told him, if he ever gave it up, to let me know,” Moseley said. “So he was getting ready to be promoted and called me to say, ‘If you’re still interested…’ It went from there. I talked it over with my wife and ended up taking it.”
Cutcliffe could have obviously vetoed the decision and picked his own security detail, but, as is often the case with the Duke coach, he trusted the people around him.
“Of course, ultimately, Coach has got to approve whoever comes in,” Moseley said, “but he kind of went along with what the other trooper said. He knew he would lead him in the right direction.”
Now, eight years later, leading Cutcliffe in the right direction will be the responsibility of another trooper, as Moseley leaves with memories.
“I’m a big Duke fan, so it worked out great,” he said. “There have been so many memories. I was talking with Coach about it earlier. I got to visit New Mexico, when we were in El Paso for the (Sun) Bowl. I’ve been to California — got to see the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Something that meant a lot to me, personally. I lost my dad when I was 8 years old, and he was a Yankees fan. We went to the Pinstripe Bowl, and we were the home team, so we used the Yankees locker room. That was probably the most meaningful moment to me.”
Late Saturday afternoon, when David Cutcliffe is safely in the Duke locker room, his office in the football building or in his car headed home, his shadow will head off in a separate direction.
“I just want to recognize how much we appreciate him as a man and as a public servant,” Cutcliffe said. “You are the kind of person we want to serve the state of North Carolina. So Brian, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.”