Retired Army vet's passion for Duke continues to grow

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Tony Cooper has long been a Duke fan. Shades of blue made the early difference growing up in Fayetteville.

"Everybody in Fayetteville is predominately UNC so my favorite color is a darker blue so it started just by the color alone," said Cooper.

From that beginning, something much more profound was born. Cooper, a 20-year army vet, became a father, but his son had serious eye issues. In his family's moment of need, Duke Hospitals were there.

"It's past just shooting a ball. The medical center and the whole college itself is like family-based. The way they take pride in each other and making sure they take care of one another I don't see any other university being anything like that," he said.

While his son was being treated at Duke, Tony decided to take a field trip over to Cameron. On that visit, he was overheard indulging another love of his.

"The person that was at the ticketing office heard me singing and said 'you have a beautiful voice do you know the national anthem?' and I said 'I know it like the back of my hand - I was the vocalist for the Army band at the time.'"

Next thing you know, in November 2015, Toni was enlisted to sing the pregame anthem. He had done that, the anthem anyway, countless times before.

"I've sung in front of thousands and thousands of people," he said.

But this was different. Cooper sang his heart out, and once he finished, he got one very important positive review.

"As he got closer to me I felt like a kid. When he shook my hand and in his raspy voice he said 'Good job son' I was like 'oh my gosh,'" he said.

It turns out that Mike Krzyzewski had more than just kind words to offer.

"Coach K mailed us a whole bunch of gifts and it was awesome, awesome. I saved it for Christmas and when my son opened it up it was the best thing I could've ever given him," Tony said.

Already a diehard, that cemented things for Tony.

"Since then, nobody can tell me anything about the Blue Devils."
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