His dad, Jim, coached high school football for 34 years, including 19 as a head coach. His older siblings, Sam and Megan, were adopted from South Korea.
His dad taught him the fundamentals of football. His siblings are part of the reason he’s a natural leader in the locker room, understanding every team is comprised of players from various backgrounds.
“Having a brother and sister adopted from South Korea, you can be comfortable with other people’s personalities, other people’s traits, you’re definitely going to realize that not everyone is the same,” Max said last weekend as he came to Fort Worth for his official visit to TCU.
“That’s helped me a lot being able to relate and having those two helped me relate during the recruiting process and even right now being able to talk and be comfortable with a lot of people.
“As a quarterback, you’ve got to be able to talk to everyone and you’ve got to be able to communicate with everyone.”
Those intangible leadership qualities are part of the reason TCU’s program is excited to land Duggan [pronounced DOUG-un]. Of course, they like his athletic ability and arm strength too.
Duggan is one of three four-star commits TCU has in its 2019 class along with Wichita Falls Hirschi running back Daimarqua Foster and Newton athlete Tamauzia Brown, according to 247Sports.
But coach Gary Patterson, speaking in general about the 2019 class, raved about the family upbringings the players come from. None is more apparent than Max Duggan.
“Being a coach’s son, I think the biggest thing is you understand what a coach wants, what a coach looks for, you understand their mentality,” Duggan said. “You understand how much time they put into it and what they’re looking for from a player. That’s the biggest thing. The little things you should and shouldn’t do in practice. How you treat teammates, other coaches.
“That’s the biggest thing I was able to take away from having my dad coach me.”
High school highs
Jim Duggan is one of the more well-respected coaches in the surrounding Omaha area (Council Bluffs is just across the Nebraska/ Iowa border, a 10-minute drive from Omaha).
He coached Mike Stuntz at Saint Albert in Council Bluffs in the late 1990s, early 2000s. Stuntz went on to play quarterback at Nebraska, memorably throwing a reverse pass to Eric Crouch to beat Oklahoma in the 2001 season (the same year Crouch won the Heisman Trophy).
He also coached Jake Waters at Saint Albert. Waters went on become Kansas State’s starting quarterback in 2013-14.
But nobody Jim Duggan coached accomplished what his son, Max, did. Max was named Iowa’s Gatorade Player of the Year this last season.
It capped a remarkable high school career in which he started all four years, leading his team to winning seasons each time. The Titans reached the semifinals this season, falling to eventual state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier.
“I wanted a big junior year, but kind of got shorted with an injury,” Max said. “So the whole offseason I had goals that I wanted to set out for and worked really hard for. I thought a lot of the work I put in with my team, my guys, my coaching staff, really showed this season.
“It was a successful season for my team and myself. We fell a little short, but it was a good all-around season.”
Duggan finished his senior season going 123 of 186 passing for 2,130 yards with 24 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also had 1,223 yards rushing and 25 TDs on 113 carries.
He was also a standout basketball, baseball and track and field athlete in high school.
“I’m excited for him to become a one-sport athlete,” Jim Duggan said. “I think the ceiling is still out there for him as far as football. I’m looking forward for him to have an opportunity to get in and get in a system where he can just do football 24-7.
“He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s a weight room junkie. He’s a film room junkie. He does everything as far as preparation that he needs to do to get himself ready to compete. Some of those intangibles are pretty important from a quarterback position.”
Eyes on TCU
TCU is in an interesting spot at the quarterback position going into next spring. At least for now.
Shawn Robinson is transferring to another program, Mike Collins underwent surgery and Justin Rogers remains an unknown as he continues to rehab his way back from a severe knee injury.
So Duggan, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound freshman who will step onto campus next month, could be in line for significant reps this spring, although he understands there’s a process that must play out.
“I’m looking at it as I’m going to come in and whatever reps I would get, I’m going to try and make the most of it,” Duggan said. “I’m going to try and make myself better, make the guys better around me. I’m going into a really good room. I’ve talked with Justin and Mike, it’s a great group of guys. I’m excited to be a part of it and compete with them, learn from them.
“Those guys have been around and been in the system for a while so I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
Added Jim Duggan: “He’s realistic in understanding what he’s getting into. He understands there’s a learning curve and his ego is not so big that he thinks he’s going to come in here and get a shot right out of the gate. He understands there’s a pecking order and he’s going to be at the bottom end of that pecking order. It’s all about earning your way.”
Eventually, though, the hope is Duggan develops into a reliable quarterback for TCU. This is the most highly-ranked quarterback prospect from Iowa since former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kyle Orton played at Southeast Polk in 2000.
For TCU to land that caliber of prospect from an area with schools such as Iowa State, Nebraska and Iowa nearby is significant.
“Obviously we don’t have the quantity of teams that you do in Texas, but the quality of football is awfully good where we’re from,” Jim Duggan said. “We’re right in the hotbed of Nebraska and Iowa. During the fall, there’s not a lot to do so people follow football and are pretty passionate about it.”
For Max, though, TCU fit the best.
He liked the idea of playing in a warmer climate. He liked what he heard from co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie. And he liked the idea of joining an Air Raid scheme.
“I felt at home at TCU,” Duggan said. “I felt comfortable with the coaching staff, felt comfortable with the players. The school was great and the city of Fort Worth is great.”
Now the focus is on to football and Duggan is bringing plenty of excitement to the TCU fan base.
It’s warranted, too, in recruiting expert and Horned Frog Blitz publisher Jeremy Clark’s mind. Clark watched Duggan play in person earlier this season.
“The thing that impressed me about Max is something that’s not in the stat column. It’s just his composure on the football field,” Clark said. “He’s cool, calm and collected. He’s an extreme leader of that offense. He’s a guy that if he makes mistakes, or teammates makes mistakes, he doesn’t get rattled by it. He just goes on to the next play. I think that’s important for quarterbacks to understand. You’ve got to live for the next play. That’s something you sometimes get when your dad is the head coach and being around football all the time.
“As far as athleticism goes, he’s got one of the best arms I’ve ever seen for a TCU commit. I’ve been covering this team for 14 years and the only other arm I can really compare him to strength-wise is Trevone Boykin. With Max you can obviously see the arm strength right off the bat and he’s also very elusive. He’ll step on campus in January and automatically be the fastest quarterback they have.”
Duggan wouldn’t argue with that assessment. He’s ready to get to campus and show why he’s one of the top-rated recruits in this year’s class.
What can Frog fans expect when they see him on the field, or hear about him at practice?
“I’m a competitive type of quarterback,” Duggan said. “I play hard, which some people say gets me in trouble sometimes, but I’m a throw-first kid. I like to spin it around, be able to have all the throws – quick game, intermediate, deep.
“Then having the ability to run is a big thing. Just being a pass-first guy and run second, making teams account for that ability.”