Max Duggan always had heart of a champion, but it needed a nine-hour rewiring to save TCU career

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Max Duggan needed a heart operation that wasn’t available 20 years ago to continue his TCU career (The Associated Press/LM Otero).


By Drew Davison
Frogs Today special contributor


The thought of never playing football again crossed Max Duggan’s mind two years ago.

Doctors diagnosed Duggan with a heart defect caused by Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome that required surgery in the summer of 2020, and his playing days were very much in doubt.

“When you find out about the heart condition and you sit down and tell your parents about it, it makes you open your eyes a little bit like, ‘Oh, maybe my career is over,’” Duggan said. “Once I started asking more questions, finding out more information, I thought it was going to be all right.”

If not, Duggan said, he would’ve just become your normal college student.

“If I wasn’t playing football, yeah, I’d have to figure out some way to stay in sports, whether it was playing intramural sports, pickup basketball,” Duggan said. “But just being a normal student, hanging around Fort Worth? Not too bad of a gig.”

Well, Duggan has a better gig these days. Instead of retiring from the game amid medical concerns two years ago, or bolting to the transfer portal amid a coaching change last year, Duggan is leading the TCU Horned Frogs into the College Football Playoff and headed to New York to possibly accept the Heisman Trophy award Saturday as college football’s best player.

This season has exemplified that Duggan is wired — quite literally — a little differently than most. He’s the kind of person who thrives when his back is against the wall and odds are stacked against him.

It’s been quite the journey to this point.

Nine-hour surgery

Jim Duggan called it the longest day of his life.

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