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DePaul student Clifton Duffin Jr. wows ‘American Idol’ judges

CliftDuffJr. Country Club Hills DePaul University Chicago where he is student Jan. 30 2013. He has been selected advance Hollywood

Clifton Duffin Jr., of Country Club Hills, at DePaul University in Chicago, where he is a student, Jan. 30, 2013. He has been selected to advance to Hollywood in the current season of the TV program "American Idol." | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 6, 2013 6:24AM

The first time that Clifton Duffin Jr.’s parents heard him sing was at an “American Idol” audition last fall at the Adler Planetarium.

The 23-year-old singer from Country Club Hills, who also is a student at DePaul, not only impressed them, but apparently the celebrity judges as well. They sent him to the Fox television show’s next round in Hollywood.

“Whenever he did sing, it was away from home, or somewhere [else],” said his mother, Sasha Duffin. “He just blew us away.”

To clinch his ticket to “Idol,” Duffin sang his mo­ther’s favorite, Luther Vandross’ version of “Superstar,” as his parents watched.

During his audition, which aired last month, he sang “Who’s Loving You” by The Jackson 5. Then the judges wanted to hear another song.

“I went blank,” he said. “All I could think of was ‘Superstar’ by Luther Vandross. My mother had been playing that a few days prior.”

He nailed it, the judges said, and he’s still in the competition.

The “Idol” hopeful is having a blast. His cell phone was swamped with calls and text messages after his Jan. 17 appearance. “It was so amazing. The messages were pouring in. I never expected that,” he said.

Duffin’s eager to get to Hollywood, but isn’t sure when that will be. “They told us to be ready between January and March,” he said. “Getting this far is validation I’m good enough.”

Duffin, who graduated in 2006 from Hillcrest High School, where he sang in a choir, is a junior at DePaul. He is studing computer engineering, public relations and advertising.

Sounds like he’s doing well in public relations, as he has nothing but praise for “American Idol” judges Randy Jackson, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.

“Those four? They were honest and surprisingly great. You hear a lot in the news about them arguing, things like that, but they were amazing,” he said.

“They allowed me to have fun. They told me the talent is there, to trust my instincts and to believe in myself.”

Whatever happens, he of course has already won over one judge.

“Oh, my goodness,” his mother said, “am I proud.”

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