How Max Duggan persevered to change into the right match at TCU

THE LEGEND OF Max Duggan, the cussed overachiever who started the common season as a backup quarterback and ended it because the Heisman Trophy runner-up main TCU to a School Soccer Playoff berth, was born on the Fourth of July again in Iowa.

Jim Duggan, Max’s dad and former highschool soccer coach in Council Bluffs, remembers first seeing his son’s cussed resistance to shedding throughout an annual household ceremony of passage, a water struggle during which all of the Duggans would use no matter means essential to drench their opponents.

“It’s hoses and it’s water guns and it’s balloons,” Jim stated on Thursday morning from Arizona, pondering again to the place he first noticed his son’s never-say-die perspective take form. “It’s buckets of ice water. It’s adults climbing up on grandma and grandpa’s roof, hiding and then blasting the kids with a garden hose. It was all well water, and that well water comes out of ground ice cold. It’s a shock to the body. Kids are slipping and falling down in the yard. It was just a good old-fashioned water fight and it lasted for 45 minutes. It was just a tradition at the Duggan Fourth of July parties.”

There was just one rule in figuring out the winner: You cry, and also you’re out.

“He would be 3, 4, 5 years old and would always be one of the last survivors because you could do just about anything to him and he wouldn’t cry, he wouldn’t come out of that water fight for anything,” Jim stated. “He always battled. That was kind of the early sign that this kid’s a little bit different.”

In his 4 years at TCU, Max Duggan has stayed within the struggle. He overcame the invention and subsequent nine-hour surgical procedure to right a coronary heart situation referred to as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, the place an additional electrical pathway induced a fast heartbeat. He overcame a subsequent emergency surgical procedure for a blood clot from the process. The TCU coach he bonded with in recruiting, offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, left. The coach who signed him, Gary Patterson, parted methods with the varsity, and the brand new coach, Sonny Dykes, handed Duggan’s beginning job to his backup, Chandler Morris.

However even Morris, who was injured on this yr’s season opener in opposition to Colorado, watched Duggan reclaim the job and lead the Massive 12 in passing yards (3,321) and passing TDs (30), studying the identical lesson opponents did. You may’t maintain Duggan down.

“He’s just kind of like a cockroach,” Morris stated. “You can’t kill him. That’s how I see Max. He’s going to get right back up and he’s going to keep going.”

After 41 begins and a season that shall be commemorated in TCU historical past, Duggan will get his probability as big slayer on Saturday when No. 3 TCU faces No. 2 Michigan within the School Soccer Playoff Semifinal on the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (4 p.m. ET, ESPN). If there’s something we have realized this season, and apparently all the way in which again to his childhood in Iowa, it is to not rely Max Duggan out.


TCU LOST ONE recreation this season, a 31-28 additional time loss to Kansas State within the Massive 12 championship recreation. Duggan had a subpar first half by this season’s requirements, then rallied the Horned Frogs from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit, speeding for 95 yards on an 80-yard drive, collapsing in exhaustion after scoring the landing, earlier than throwing the game-tying 2-point conversion with 1:51 left within the recreation.

After Kansas State held TCU scoreless in additional time and kicked the game-winning area objective, Duggan sat at his locker for 45 minutes in full uniform, by himself. An hour after the sport ended, Duggan got here into the information convention, nonetheless unable to get by the heartbreak of developing simply inches wanting scoring a landing on an additional time drive, ending his hopes of bringing a Massive 12 title to Fort Price.

The child who by no means cried was red-eyed and bleary, with tears flowing as he claimed duty for the loss. After 18 losses in his first three years at TCU, this one broke him.

“Just in the moment, it was a real emotion that was coming out,” Duggan stated this week. “I’ve been here for four years and there’s been so many ups and downs and failures and success. You want to do everything you can to make them proud, and you get so close to a league championship and then you fall short. You feel bad for the guys in the locker room, the staff and the university because it means so much to them. As a quarterback, you feel responsible, kind of the guy in charge.”

The clips from that information convention have continued to hang-out TCU coaches and gamers. It is nearly unfair that will probably be a signature reminiscence of one of many biggest seasons in TCU soccer historical past.

“Man, it makes me, and us, hurt even more,” offensive coordinator Garrett Riley stated. “He’s not usually an emotional person. I think that’s what really struck a chord for a lot of people to see a guy like him in that moment.”

As TCU prepares for Michigan, the photographs have served as a motivational issue, particularly for Duggan’s offensive linemen, who do not wish to see their chief in ache.

“We’re the position that’s supposed to be taking the beating for him,” stated sort out Andrew Coker, who has began each recreation for the previous two years. “Whenever you see that come out of your quarterback, you want to pick the guy up, you want to keep him off the ground. You want to adopt his attitude.”

Linebacker Johnny Hodges joked on Wednesday that it was the primary time he’d seen Duggan not excel at one thing.

“I saw him after he lost one game this year and he didn’t look great,” Hodges stated on Wednesday. “He’s not a good crier.”

However then once more, he hasn’t had a lot apply.


TCU WILL GO into Saturday’s recreation as a 7.5-point underdog in response to Caesar’s Sportsbook. However provided that the Frogs had 200-1 odds to win the nationwide championship coming into the season, the longest odds of any crew to ever attain the CFP, they will take it.

So many issues have needed to go proper for Duggan to be right here. However some needed to go flawed, too.

After Dykes named Morris the starter, Duggan vowed to stay round and be the very best backup he might be. He got here to TCU, he stated, as a result of he wished to go someplace he’d take pleasure in even when he was only a common pupil and never a soccer participant. TCU, in a metropolitan space, appealed to him. So, he was keen to see it by.

Then Morris sprained his knee within the second half in opposition to Colorado, and Duggan began thriving. The subsequent week, Duggan accomplished 23 of 29 passes and set profession highs in yards (390) and TD passes (5) in a 59-17 win over Tarleton. However Riley admits he nonetheless wasn’t fairly certain about Duggan till the following week, in a 42-34 win over SMU in Dallas. After all, in two earlier seasons earlier than arriving at TCU, Riley was on the SMU sidelines because the Mustangs beat Duggan and the Frogs each instances.

“He really made some plays in the passing game in the first half where I was like, ‘OK, that’s a little bit better than I saw it in terms of what he could do,'” Riley stated. “There are some times where he totally just stood in the pocket and moved on to his fourth read and delivered a strike. I was like, ‘Oh s—, that’s a lot better than I probably would have guessed.’ And then, he duplicated some of those things the very next week against Oklahoma. I thought there was something pretty pretty special here.”

After which got here the comebacks. TCU went 5-1 this yr when it trailed within the second half. And Duggan led the FBS with 10.3 yards per try when he was below stress.

Riley stated essentially the most dramatic enchancment has been on deep passes. On passes thrown 20 or extra yards downfield, Duggan has the very best completion proportion within the nation (50%), with 12 touchdowns, tied for essentially the most within the FBS. He has 13 completions of fifty or extra yards this season, which can be tops nationally.

“He got a bad rap for hitting deep balls,” Riley stated. “That was kind of a big thing coming in. Now deep balls are probably his No. 1 strength. So it’s not like I came in here and had this whole equation of, ‘Hey, this is how we’re gonna hit those.’ We just do it.”

Dykes received emotional after the SMU recreation speaking about how Duggan responded to all of the adjustments and doubts, saying he would hope his son would deal with them as effectively. He stated Duggan has nonetheless by no means questioned the choice.

“I’m sure plenty of times he wanted to say, ‘What were you thinking, moron?'” Dykes stated. “That’s what I’ve wanted to say to a lot of people. Part of being a quarterback and being a head coach is you don’t say things you think sometimes. So I think that he’s probably showed some restraint by not walking in here going, ‘What are you, an idiot?’ I think that’s just part of who he is.”


THE 28 DAYS between the Massive 12 championship loss and the Fiesta Bowl are invaluable to the Horned Frogs, whose run of 11 straight convention video games this season ended with Duggan almost unable to stroll off the sector on his personal after the Kansas State recreation.

He takes a lot punishment, teammates like Kendre Miller, the hard-nosed operating again who ran for 1,342 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, say he conjures up the remainder of the gamers and makes them pop again up shortly, watching their QB bleed for them.

“We talk about emptying our tank. That’s one of the pillars of our program,” Dykes stated. “Fill your tank up every week, get to the game, then empty it there. Max Duggan does that as well as anybody I’ve ever been around. He goes out there and gives everything he’s got on Saturday. He shows up Sunday morning and we kind of piece him back together with baling wire and Super Glue and he can barely walk and looks like he’s 75 years old. We’ll get to the game Saturday and he’ll be fine. That’s who he is, and to be able to do that for 13 consecutive weeks, that’s atypical.”

Dykes compares Duggan to a Fifties All-American, carrying a leather-based jacket and driving a 1957 Chevy to the promenade. Coker complains that he is too aggressive and too good at Madden.

“He looks at it from a quarterback lens so he’s out here trying to dissect your coverages and dinking and dunking all the way down the field,” he stated. “You’re like, ‘Dude, I’m not gonna play with you anymore.'”

Offensive lineman Wes Harris stated he by no means has seen Duggan get rattled, nor has he seen him get cocky.

“That dude has every right to be like, ‘Watch this,'” he stated. “He doesn’t say it. He does it.”

All of the whereas, Morris has been taking notes.

“I’ve learned a lot … I’m happy for our teammates and I’m happy for Max, because he’s been through so much with his heart, then losing the job going into his senior year, and he didn’t flinch,” Morris stated. “He was always the best teammate. Then the roles were reversed and I’m taking pride in being the best teammate that I can be and the best backup quarterback in the country.”

Duggan is the brains, coronary heart and soul of the Horned Frogs, and if he cannot pull off another wild upset, this would be the finish of his street in Fort Price, as he has already introduced he is coming into the NFL draft.

“I don’t think you can measure what he means to your program because how do you put a measure or value on that?” Dykes stated. “How can you measure how important that is?”

Jim Duggan, who’s retired from teaching, is aware of Max is prepared for his shot. And, he stated, there’s precedent.

The final time Michigan performed a bowl recreation in Arizona was in 2013 within the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Wolverines misplaced to a Massive 12 crew (Kansas State) that was led by a quarterback named Jake Waters, who was coached by Duggan at Council Bluffs and wore No. 15, identical to Max.

However win or lose, Dykes stated on Thursday that Duggan’s legacy is already established, evaluating his achievements to when Andy Dalton led TCU to a Rose Bowl win and a No. 2 end in 2010 and “put TCU on the map.”

“Max is going to be on that Mount Rushmore of TCU guys,” Dykes stated. “He certainly deserves to be. Here we are in the College Football Playoff; I think nobody anticipated any of us being here. I don’t think anybody was betting on Max Duggan to be a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. I think there’s been a lot of things that occurred this year that were beyond people’s expectations.”