Peterson: Max Duggan can be the third former Iowa high school player to win the Heisman Trophy

A former Iowa high school football player winning the Heisman Trophy?

How cool would that be, if TCU quarterback Max Duggan, via Council Bluffs Lewis Central High School, wins college football's top individual award Saturday night?

Not even a starter in the opening game, Duggan burst to national prominence throughout the Horned Frogs’ unbeaten regular-season run to the four-team College Football Playoff.

What he did after halftime during last Saturday’s Big 12 championship game against Kansas State was Heisman-like. He ran 8 yards for a touchdown with 1:51 remaining in regulation. He was a few inches short of an overtime touchdown. For the game, he passed for 251 yards and rushed for 110 more. To say he was exhausted during the Horned Frogs’ only loss, would be an understatement.

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Max Duggan -- from Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs, to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Max Duggan -- from Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs, to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Voters who hadn’t already filled out ballots took notice. Everyone noticed that the coaches’ kid from Council Bluffs has a definite shot to win. Unbeaten regular season. No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Stepping up on the Heisman Trophy stage.

“It’s a dream come true,” Duggan told reporters this week. “It’s something as a little kid you wish for while watching the Heisman ceremony — that you can be up there one day.”

His back story is as interesting as the way he rallied TCU to so many fourth-quarter victories. During a routine COVID test in 2020, doctors noticed a heart condition. A nine-hour surgery followed. Did COVID actually maybe save his life?

“COVID was my savior,” Duggan told me during Big 12 Media Days in July 2021. “Having that test was a blessing in disguise.”

You’ll certainly hear that story during the 7 p.m., ESPN broadcast on Saturday. You’ll also see how his wonderful fourth-quarter play against Kansas State nearly drove the senior to the point of exhaustion. While rallying the Horned Frogs from a 28-17 deficit to a 28-all score at the end of regulation, Duggan completed 5-of-11 passes for 31 yards. He rushed five times for 95 yards and a touchdown on the period’s final drive.

A statement performance.

TCU quarterback Max Duggan can become the third former Iowa High School football player to win the Heisman Trophy.
TCU quarterback Max Duggan can become the third former Iowa High School football player to win the Heisman Trophy.

I asked The Register’s Iowa State text group for a brief description of the 2019 recruit who chose TCU over such notables as Iowa State, Iowa, Georgia, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee.

Warrior and a winner . . . Duggan Tough . . . Grit . . . Iowa strong . . . Wish he was a Cyclone . . . All-in . . . Determined not to lose . . . Ironman . . . May not wow you with flashy athleticism, but defines heart and perseverance . . . Mr. Fourth Quarter . . . Heisman heart and courage . . . Ultimate definition of never say die . . . The quintessential Iowa high school football player who makes everyone who has ever coached him proud . . . The one that got away . . . The player that dropped to a knee to talk to Iowa State’s Kid Captain during the coin toss . . . Blood and guts player . . . Mature and disciplined, grateful for his second opportunity . . . Leader . . . Winner . . .  Baller . . .  Resilient . . . One tough courageous Iowan . . . Fearless . . . Beyond belief . . .  No one can ever again use the phrase “gives 110%” until watching a replay of the final series against Kansas State . . . Rugged and focused . . . Someone should make a movie . . . Exhausted. . . Heisman Trophy winner.

On Saturday night, Max Duggan can join Ames native Joe Burrow, Dubuque’s Jay Berwanger and Adel’s Nile Kinnick as Iowa-born Heisman Trophy winners. He can be the third Heisman winner to play football at an Iowa high school; Burrow moved from Ames at the age of 4.

More:Peterson: Heisman Trophy front-runner Joe Burrow will be forever linked to Ames and that house on McKinley Drive

Duggan is the No. 2 betting choice, behind USC quarterback Caleb Williams, according to the BetMGM website, while Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett is third, and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud fourth.

Overcoming the odds?

It wouldn’t be the first time Max Duggan did that.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson is in his 51st year writing sports for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at and on Twitter @RandyPete

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Peterson: Iowan Max Duggan winning the Heisman Trophy would be epic