Max Duggan compared to former TCU Andy Dalton

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — How do you win the nation watching college football after a loss? TCU quarterback Max Duggan, who was crying and red-faced earlier this month after his team fell awfully short in the Big 12 title game against Kansas State for the lone loss of the Horned Frogs of the season, can tell you.

An hour before the tears began to flow, Duggan had dashed into the end zone for a touchdown and then found Jared Wiley for a two-point conversion to cap an tying drive with less than two minutes left in the regulation. The television cameras had caught him on the bench, blood on his face and determination in his eyes. The Council Bluffs, Iowa elder couldn’t deliver the Horned Frogs the Big 12 title, but it was personified, and TCU became the first Texas program to make the college football playoffs despite losing 31-28 against the Wildcats.

It was redemption for 2014, when TCU dropped from fourth to sixth in the final standings because the Big 12 didn’t have a title game to win. It was something of a high point for a program that former head coach Gary Patterson built from a WAC nobody to a Big 12 powerhouse. It was a redeeming arc after a 3-5 start. in 2021 resulted in the firing of Patterson, the hiring of Sonny Dykes, and a subsequent rise throughout the conference. It was the result of five one-score wins that had tipsters looking at the Horned Frogs’ odds with skepticism. Now, though, TCU is one win over Michigan away from playing in the national championship game for the first time, so who cares?

Max Dugan
Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton
Getty Images

« It’s always hard to predict what someone’s legacy will be, but I think you look at Max and I think it’s going to look like [quarterback] Andy Dalton in many ways,” Dykes said this week. “I think you look at Andy and his time at TCU and he kind of put TCU on the map. I took them to a Rose Bowl. Became one of the guys you think of when you think of TCU football. Max is going to be on that Mount Rushmore from the TCU guys. He certainly deserves to be.

Dalton led the Horned Frogs to an undefeated 2010 season that ended in a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin, helping hand the program and then Mountain West the legitimacy of securing a Big 12 invite. But if Duggan can pick up two more victories, his legend will extend far beyond Fort Worth.

Duggan has a compelling story to tell. After testing for COVID-19 ahead of the 2020 season revealed Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition affecting his heart, he underwent nine-hour heart surgery. Two days later, he underwent emergency surgery to deal with a subsequent blood clot. He played again that season, later saying he « didn’t train at all », not because of his heart condition, but because he had a broken bone and a torn tendon in his foot which forced him to be shot with painkillers every week.

When Dykes arrived before this season, he named Chandler Morris the starting quarterback ahead of Duggan. In this age when the transfer portal is king, Duggan still decided to stay. He got another chance after Morris was injured in the season opener against Colorado, and never let up on his job. And there he was on Thursday, answering a question likening himself to TCU football royalty.

« When you come here after high school, you want to be like those guys, Andy [Dalton], [LaDainian Tomlinson], Bob Lilly,” he said. “All our greats. When you come here you want to be like these [guys]. You want to leave an impact on this program and this university, just like these guys.

Win or lose on Saturday, Duggan wrote a legacy to stand alongside this group, but the story isn’t over yet.

« He’s making good reads, » Michigan linebacker Junior Colson said. “He can kill us with his legs if we let him. … He’s a warrior, he’s a fighter. You can tell every time, especially if things get tough, he’ll put the team on his back and carry them.

He might just lead them to the national title game.


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