Julius Columbus Dives Into Why He Chose The Duke Blue Devils & Goals For 2024

It all started with a beloved uncle introducing the game of football to a young kid. That seed, planted years ago, grew and blossomed. It’s a tale as old as time and for Julius Columbus, the standout defensive lineman for Gainesville, that’s how he came to love the game.

He honed his game in middle school, playing for the Red Elephants, and has been a staple for the program since.

“Football has always been a game that has been there for me. My uncle got me into it when I was young. I was always a defensive/offensive lineman and went back and forth. Middle school is when I found a passion for the D-line,” said Columbus. “At a young age going into high school already solidifying your position is a good thing to do. I just fell in love with the game and the enjoyment it brings.”

Something that separates Columbus is his relentless motor. He is constantly in the backfield creating big plays defensively whether that is stopping the run or creating pressure on the quarterback. He has great strength and power and uses that to move opposing offensive linemen. He also possesses great hands and footwork, and gets to the backfield in a hurry.

Columbus is coming off a stellar season for Gainesville and finished the year with 58 tackles, 20 sacks, and seven quarterback hurries. He has improved his numbers every year and has learned from some great Gainesville defensive players like Jeremiah Tedlander (Tennessee) and Champ Thompson (Clemson). In terms of who he models his game after and who he likes to watch, Columbus is a huge fan of this future Hall of Famer and Super Bowl winner.

“Aaron Donald for sure. I know he just retired, but I try to idolize my game after him. He’s an inspiration to a bunch of kids. He doesn’t let his height be a factor in his game. He plays like he is 6’5. Donald plays like he is bigger and stronger than everyone. He plays like he wants it every single play and never takes a play off. He’s getting double-teamed and triple-teamed while half of the line is just blocking him and he is still getting back to the quarterback. He does it all so well,” said Columbus.

Similar to Donald, Columbus wasn’t always a heavily recruited guy. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, he put in the work and the offers started rolling in. He recently committed to Duke and talked about why he chose the Blue Devils to spend the next three to four years of his career.

“I was very excited. I went up for my visit and it just felt like home. The coaches were great and the head coach was great. My mom and uncle loved it. I was like hey I am ready to shut it down,” said Columbus. “My mom was like okay let’s do it. I called them the next day and was like hey coach I am ready to commit. I trust myself in saying that I am committed to a lifelong college not just for football but also for academics.”

Academics was a big part of his decision in choosing the Duke Blue Devils. Duke is one of the highest-rated academic universities in the country. According to U.S. News & World Report, Duke ranks as #7 of 439 national universities in the United States.

“Grades are definitely a factor. In life when someone sees you graduate from Duke they will look at you differently than someone who goes to another college. All colleges are great, but when it is colleges like that or any Ivy League or Georgia Tech and you have it on your resume I graduated from here they are going to look at you with some form of respect,” said Columbus. “They know that you are going to be a person they can depend on and a person that is smart in every aspect of what you are doing. I take that seriously and in high school I take my grades seriously.”

Columbus has continued to build his connection with head coach Manny Diaz, special teams coordinator/defensive tackles coach Gabe Infante, and defensive end coach Harland Bower. He also likes the campus and is looking forward to new things on the horizon at Duke.

“Me and Coach Diaz talk on the phone sometimes. We had a great talk when I went on my visit. On my official visit, I am excited to go back up there and spend some more time with him. The defensive line coach and defensive tackle coach text and call me almost every day. If anything it’s like they are just one of my friends. They always hit me up and ask how I am doing questions anyone would ask,” said Columbus.

“It was beautiful. They still have some things they are working on right now. On Instagram, they posted that they are going to redo the field next year. It’s beautiful out there. The campus is beautiful. It’s like a modern type of art thing. The chapel is beautiful and the football is beautiful. It is beautiful all around,” said Columbus.

He has already started to get comfortable with some of the players who are already enrolled at Duke and is enjoying the family aspect of the program.

“It’s great. Myself and the class of 2025 are excited to get up there. I am already building a bond with the guys up there and I haven’t even gotten there. That goes to show you that Duke is a family. I’ve talked to freshmen and sophomores at Duke. They already introduced me as family and I am not even on the team yet. All I have done is commit,” said Columbus.

“I am very committed to Duke and I am glad to say I am,” said Columbus. “It’s a wrap but my Mom wants to tour a couple more places. When you are in high school, these colleges are inviting you so it’s like hey let’s go to Georgia Tech it is right down the road. Let’s go to Wake Forest. It is not that far. Just to view the campuses and be able to explore and travel. I am 100% locked in with Duke, but it will be fun to travel around a little bit.”

In terms of what he wants to accomplish this upcoming season, Columbus has big goals and aspirations and wants to go out on top for his senior season.

“I want to have another great season and get some sacks and tackles for loss. Make sure I fit in my gap. I want to work on the small things and work on learning the offense more. As a team getting closer and knowing what the other person has to do, so if they mess up you can tell them, hey you need to get this right you need to get that right,” said Columbus.

“For myself, getting bigger faster and stronger. Always have to work on that. You can never be smart enough and you always have to keep learning the game. “I had 20 sacks after the playoffs and that made me #3 in Georgia, so I am aiming for 20 or more this season and aiming for 50 tackles. I want to live in the backfield. I want to continue to get my body more lean and toned up a little bit more and also focus on winning a state championship.”

It certainly won’t be easy for Gainesville this season with the daunting schedule they put together but the consensus around the program is that they want to be tested and play the best of the best this upcoming season. The Red Elephants will play notable teams like Moody (AL), Westlake, Carrollton, Lanier, Milton, and Roswell, all playoff teams from a season ago.

“North Gwinnett is going to be fun. I know it is a spring game, but I have some boys up there. One of the names is Cole Funderburk. He just committed to Wake Forest. Me and him have been going back and forth saying how the game is going to go,” said Columbus. “We are excited about that. There is another Duke commit at Milton who plays safety (Ma’khi Jones). Me and him have been talking about it on Instagram and we are excited about this game. We are also excited for Carrollton. It will be a good game. I mean we are excited for everyone on the schedule. All teams that could compete in a state championship. Every game is going to be fun.”

In terms of how he wants to be remembered and the legacy he wants to leave, Columbus had this to say.

“An energetic guy bringing energy to the room, a fun guy and a good teammate. You don’t have to be like Hey, is Julius here today? Is Julius working today? You know he will be there and you know he is working,” said Columbus. “A guy that is committed to where he is at. I’ve been at Gainesville my whole life and never thought about switching up. A loyal and committed guy that is going to bring energy to the room.”

The needle starts and stops with Columbus defensively and Gainesville has the chance to be one of the best defensive fronts in not only the state but potentially the country. They are loaded with talent and hungry players who want to make their mark, and Columbus is one of them.

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