Duggan is a senior who has started all four years at the same university. He is also a star. In this day and age, those things go together as often as “zero calories” and “chocolate hot fudge sundae.”
Yet here is Duggan, fresh off leading his team to an impressive 43-40 double-overtime victory over previously unbeaten Oklahoma State, and now preparing to take on No. 17 Kansas State with sole possession of first place in the Big 12 on the line.
He is not flashy by any means, and he doesn’t throw the ball 75 yards down the field or run a sub 4.4 40-yard dash. He does, however, represent something bigger than college football. He is a shining example of an individual who battled adversity, stayed the course, and came out on top.
The story of TCU QB Max Duggan
Hear why Joel Klatt is a huge fan of QB Max Duggan, and why he is one of the reasons he loves college football.
To fully understand Duggan’s journey, one must go back to August 2020. In preparation for the start of the upcoming season, Duggan made a routine visit to the doctor. Because of COVID-19, however, additional team protocols were put in place that year, including EKG testing, which is a recording of the heart’s electrical activity.
During that time, doctors discovered that Duggan had a rare abnormality in his heart. It turned out he had the condition since birth, and it required a procedure if he was going to be able to continue playing football.
Questions began to arise about Duggan’s future and if this discovery would put his season — and possibly his football career — in doubt.
That was not the case, however, as Duggan returned to the field in the Horned Frogs’ season-opener against Iowa State and ended up starting every game under center that season. He threw for 1,795 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions while leading TCU to a 6-4 mark, which included two top-15 wins and a spot in the Mercari Texas Bowl.
It appeared to be an incredible comeback story for the Horned Frogs’ signal-caller, but adversity struck once again midway through the 2021 season. Following a 31-12 loss to Kansas State in late October, TCU and head coach Gary Patterson made the decision to part ways. After starting the first eight games of the season, Duggan was benched in that loss to the Wildcats, and the school announced that Patterson was out the following day.
Chandler Morris, who transferred to TCU after spending his freshman season at Oklahoma, took over the starting QB role following Patterson’s departure. Duggan would start the final two games of the 2021 campaign, but the team finished 5-7 and failed to make a bowl game for just the second time in eight years.
“Do you know how many players in college football, as soon as that happens, would have entered the transfer portal?” Klatt questioned. “Not Max Duggan.”
Instead, Duggan chose to stick it out at TCU and compete with Morris to be the team’s starter heading into the 2022 campaign. The staff ultimately decided to name Morris the starter in the team’s season-opener against Colorado, but the Oklahoma transfer left the game late in the third quarter after a defender landed on his left leg, and did not return.
It was that moment when everything changed for Duggan. For the first time in what certainly felt like a long time, he was fully healthy and didn’t have to look over his shoulder for another QB coming for his job. This was Duggan’s team, it was his time to shine, and that is exactly what the senior QB has done in five starts this season.
Since taking over under center, Duggan has thrown for 1,591 yards with 16 touchdowns and just one interception. He is completing 70% of his passes, which would break the school’s single-season completion percentage record.
This past weekend against Oklahoma State, Duggan totaled 343 yards and three scores while rallying the Horned Frogs from a 17-point deficit. He was named the Big-12 co-offensive player of the week for his performance.
“Last week’s game against Oklahoma State encapsulated his entire career arc in one game,” Klatt said. “They were down multiple scores, and the guy never quits.”
When the Horned Frogs take the field Saturday under the lights at Amon G. Carter Stadium, all eyes will be on Duggan as he attempts to lead TCU to its first 7-0 start since 2017.
Can he keep his magical run going?
“He just keeps playing, and he keeps playing as hard as he possibly can,” Klatt said of Duggan. “I love that he has the fortitude as a young man to deal with adversity and come through with it on the other side.”
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