Painting A Self-Portrait

Oct. 15, 2005

By Tim Collins
Special to

Besides the memories that Matt Dugan will take with him after this year, you will only see him holding onto one of two objects these days. One is his paintbrush. The other might be a recovered fumble like the one he picked up at Delaware this year. Dugan, a senior linebacker, also doubles as a visual arts major when he is off the field. He devotes his time solely to the things that are most important to him at this moment. During the fall season, he can be seen working out at practice or putting down his 22 years worth of ideas on canvas.

"That's about it right now. I like to work with paint and draw. The only things I focus on are art and football right now," said Dugan. "Then just the normal things like relaxing and hanging out with friends."

Not everyday do we see a football player with off-the-field interests that are so unlike the aggressive football mentality that is portrayed by National Football League superstars like Ray Lewis and Rodney Harrison. "Coach Gilmore and the guys think I am a strange guy and, in kidding, they give me a hard time. No one expects a middle linebacker to be an art major but I take it very seriously," said Dugan. A lot of other students might take an entry level art class just as a credit-filler but Dugan chose the major because it is what he loves. Creating a work of art is something that he takes very seriously. It is a love he might not show off a lot but it is a big part of who he is. Painting and drawing is something he does more for himself, as he has rarely put his work on display for judging. "I've only been in one Worcester-area art show, that's it." Art work is a diversion that he can enjoy without others' opinions mattering.

In terms of football, Dugan ultimately made his own decision to play at Holy Cross but was influenced by a family tradition. Dugan's father John (better known as Jay), was a football captain for the Crusaders in 1964, as was his older brother David in 2002. The younger Dugan enjoyed the time he was able to spend with his older brother on the field. "As a freshman, it was fun playing with my brother. I learned a lot from him," said Dugan. The support continues as David may have left campus a student-athlete but cannot stay away for good. "David came to every game last year, and should make it every game again this year."

John and Mary Kate Dugan do not miss much of the on-field action either. "My parents try to come to all the games, and they have so far this year," said Dugan. "I think there is a lot of excitement in my family getting to watch me play, and they are just very happy." The Crusader football tradition is obviously in the blood of the Dugan family and they will continue to throw all of their support in Matt's direction without the pressure of carrying on family tradition. "I think they are just very proud of me and are behind me." In other words, Dugan is able to paint his own self portrait on the canvas of Mount St. James instead of struggling to add to an unfinished family portrait. The picture he has created is a work of art that will hang on the wall forever.

"I love playing football at Holy Cross. I just love it here. Coming from a family with two players is very special. It motivates me to play hard. We have a great school and a great team and we want to continue to do better," said Dugan, who is a member of the newly rejuvenated Crusader defensive unit.

"We are just more relaxed out there," said Dugan, who is well on his way to passing his personal career-high of 32 tackles with 26 through the first six games of the season. He has also recorded a sack along with the recovered fumble. "Defensively we trust each other, we have faith in each other and we need to continue to have that trust."

Playing for a coach you believe in can also build a world of confidence. "Coach Gilmore is just a very good coach. He really cares about us as players." Gilmore and his assistants have had a significant influence on a turnaround, but Gilmore credits players like Dugan who ultimately make it happen.

"Matt comes out every single play in practice, no less in games, and gives tremendous effort. He plays the way coaches love to see players play, with a lot of emotion, with a lot of passion and giving everything he has, 100 percent effort. That kind of stuff shows up on the field," said Gilmore. "He's the kind of guy that's very hard on himself, so he is always looking for a way to improve. Any time you have a situation where someone is never going to be content with his play, then that player going to continue to get better every week."

There is good reason to be excited about Holy Cross, as the Crusaders have played well throughout the first half of the season, including a win over Georgetown. That game is worth noting because Dugan circled it on his calendar every year. A native of Washington, D.C., Dugan's emotional play especially shows up when he sees the Hoya gray and blue on the other side of the ball. "They recruited me in high school, and my aunt also works at the school," said Dugan. "We haven't lost to Georgetown since I've been here. I love playing against Georgetown. I love it. It is my favorite game of the year." As a senior member of the defense that gave up only one touchdown against Georgetown on Sept. 9, Dugan concluded an undefeated career against his natural rival. The Crusaders gave up a season-low six points as they cruised 48-6.

Once the season comes to an end, Dugan will have to make the decisions with which every senior struggles. New jobs, new experiences and new friends are all on the horizon, but he took the time to speak about what he will miss at his alma mater. "A lot of the memories will be the Saturday nights we all go out as a team. We always go out after the games. Just hanging out before and after the game is great. Not so much wins and losses, but more the little things."

Unsure of what the future holds for him, there are a few dreams that he might pursue. "After graduation I want to try to go play football in Europe. My brother David played for the Dresden Monarchs in Germany. I'd like to try to play for them, but I will play anywhere." He will also try to enjoy some of the down time. "Other than playing football, I would like to do some traveling. To be able to see Europe would be fun."

Regardless of what corner of the world Matt Dugan is in a year from now, he will be able paint a colorful picture of the journey. The picture he created at Holy Cross will always be the centerpiece but there is plenty of surrounding space to fill.