Oct. 22, 2005
By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Having to miss a year because of an injury can be a very negative experience. Not everyone can face the adversity and challenge of a full year of rehab and come out of it even stronger and determined. But that is exactly what senior tight end Luke Dugan did.
After missing the entire 2003 season and receiving a medical redshirt because of tearing his ulnar collateral ligament as a sophomore, coming back for his fifth year has meant that Dugan has been able to contribute to and enjoy seeing the Holy Cross football program return to its winning ways. "I am satisfied that we are doing so well as a team and that it's so good for the program," said Dugan. "I am lucky that I was able to heal properly and make the switch to tight end. Everyone on the team contributes to the team and works hard whether you are winning or losing. This year we have the talent to back up the hard work and the five wins so far have been the best reward for that hard work that one could ask for."
Hard work is something that Dugan knows a lot about. He made a very unselfish decision to take a semester off from Holy Cross, leaving his friends and the college experience after the injury, but as it turned out it was very good decision for him and the program. "Any injury that requires a long-term rehab is always hard to handle," said Dugan. "There's a lot of dedication and sacrifice that goes into the process of getting back to where you were both academically and athletically. In my situation where my rehab was 12 months, I felt that it was more beneficial for me both financially and mentally to go back home, get away from everything and concentrate on getting ready to play again."
It is not surprising that Dugan was able to overcome these obstacles if you know what one of his goals in life is. "My father was the biggest influence in my life," said Dugan. "He was always such a leader in everything he did. So I strive to be as giving and hardworking in life as he was."
Dugan's mother has also been a very positive influence in his life, and making the long trip from Maple Plain, Minn., to see him play demonstrates how close of a family Dugan has. "My mom has been to almost every game this year which has been tremendous," said Dugan. "Also, my little sister and brother have gotten to see two games this year as well."
Like a lot of boys, Dugan wanted to play college football as a kid. But it wasn't until playing football at Benilde-St. Margaret's School that he realized he had the potential to play in college. "I think every little boy wants to play college football," said Dugan. "But it really became a reality when I was in high school and since then it has been a blast to play." In high school he recorded the most all-purpose yards in school-history as a quarterback, as he also led his team to its first conference championship game in 13 years.
Last season was Dugan's first as a tight end as he played quarterback prior to the injury. He played in all 11 games, including seven starts as he ranked fourth on the team in receiving with 17 catches for 202 yards, while he was second on the team in touchdown receptions with three. He was determined to become an outstanding tight end and again that required a lot of hard work, and as we now know, that is something that Dugan never shies away from. "The game is much more physical and less mentally demanding at tight end as opposed to quarterback," said Dugan. "I think quarterback is by far the hardest position to play on the field. So the switch to tight end was mostly a matter of getting bigger and stronger as well as a more physical mindset. The coaches obviously stressed that." So Dugan embraced the challenge and worked hard in the weight room.
Head coach Tom Gilmore sees Dugan's unselfish attitude as a positive example for the team. "I think the players respect what Luke has done and continues to do as a player," said Gilmore. "He was competing for the starting quarterback spot just a couple of years ago, and he made the switch to tight end for the sake of the team. He has worked hard to rehabilitate his injuries and to increase his size and strength to play his new position. He is well-liked and respected by his teammates both on and off the field. They look to him as a leader as well as a friend."
Dugan is still adjusting and learning the position, but things are coming easier to him now half way though his second year. "Blocking has taken a lot of effort to get better on, and it is something I am constantly working on," said Dugan. "Running routes and catching the ball came a lot more natural to me. The main thing is that I feel a lot calmer and more comfortable on the field now."
Gilmore has liked what he has seen from Dugan at tight end. "Luke brings athleticism to the position," said Gilmore. "He has good size but he is also very athletic. He can stretch opposing defenses with his speed so our opponents have to prepare differently knowing of his abilities. He catches the ball very well and he has improved his ability as a blocker.
Along with how well the defense is playing, the offense is also a major reason for this season's success. "The main reason is that we have the talent at all of the positions to make plays," said Dugan. "Also, many of our offensive starters have had a lot of game experience. The combination of those two things, along with the disciplined football (three turnovers in seven games) that we are playing, has proven to be successful."
An economics major, Dugan will be preparing for the Certified Public Accountant exam, and plans to pursue financial planning or investment banking. His experiences at Holy Cross both on and off the football field have been exactly what he was looking for when selecting colleges. "I wanted to go to a school that provides a great education, and also play football at a high level," said Dugan. "The combination of the challenging academic atmosphere with the experience of being part of a college football program has allowed me to appreciate how lucky I am to have done not just one, but both of those. That's something that a lot of people would only dream of having the chance to do."
When you have committed, dedicated and determined guys like Luke Dugan on the team it should not be too surprising that the Holy Cross football team is moving in the right direction.