UPDATE: February 27, 2017 - More than 3 months after the publication of this article Sirk announced his intention to pursue a graduate transfer. He is scheduled to graduate from Duke this Spring.
The NCAA is still one of the more popular sporting leagues in the United States. A lot of people treat it as little more than the NFL's younger sibling but the NCAA is far more consistent that the NFL; you need only look at the college football championship odds to understand the enthusiasm surrounding the league.
And that enthusiasm is often driven by the drama incited by the arrival and departure of athletes to and from schools. It is interesting to scrutinize the way the potential of an athlete's arrival can energize an entire team and the way that athlete's departure can completely deflate them.
That is exactly what happened with Jack Sears. Losing players is a part of college football. All athletes, even the best and most loyal, eventually grow up, graduate and move on to the NFL.
As such college football teams only survive by bringing younger talent into the fold, talent that has the potential to fill the vacancies and which they mold to help the team meet its objectives.
It is for this reason that colleges often fight tooth and nail to acquire upcoming talent; Jack Sears was supposed to go to Duke. The Blue Devils were counting on his presence, especially when it came to structuring next year's roster.
However, Jack Sears, to everyone's dismay, de-committed and instead ran off to Southern California. That was enough of a problem to cause panic amongst Duke fans, and they would have been in some real trouble if news about Thomas Sirk hadn't emerged soon after.
The Red shirt was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. It was the news that Duke was looking for, especially at such a crucial moment. The 2016 season went downhill for Thomas when he suffered a serious Achilles injury early in the year.
Thomas should have played entering the year as a fifth-year senior. He sustained his injury in August, shortly before the Blue Devils' season opener, his plans going out the window.
It should be noted that a similar problem developed in 2013; Thomas found himself struggling with an Achilles injury, and that is probably why he was able to apply for a sixth year of eligibility.
The Blue Devils might still be sulking over the loss of Jack Sears, and they should be, considering all that they were hoping he would accomplish; but they will not mourn his absence, not with Thomas suddenly leaping onto the scene.
And the Blue Devils have every reason to greet the news about Thomas with some excitement; after all, he was their leading passer and rusher in the previous season. The Blue Devils' 8-5 record was garnered largely because of all the work Thomas put in all season.
He led the team to their first bowl victory since 1961; that is a victory more than worth celebrating.
Thomas was just as happy to have a sixth year playing college football as his team; and of course, there were the academic prospects available to him as a result. Thomas wants to get another degree from Duke University.
With Daniel Jones and Thomas Sirk around, Coach David Cutcliffe has every reason to approach the future with optimism.