When the Bishop Carroll football season ends, Matthew Dugan will cry, right along with his fellow seniors. Whether the final game is in the state championship or earlier in the Class 5A playoffs, tears will cascade down his cheeks.
He will turn to coach Alan Schuckman to hug him and say, “Not good.”
This will be the only time, though, that Schuckman will see Matthew even remotely sad. Schuckman can always count on a smile, a high-five and a shoulder pat from the 31-year-old diehard Carroll football fan who has Down syndrome. He is the brother of two players — Patrick, a senior defensive lineman, and Christopher, a sophomore linebacker.
“He’ll be crying with those seniors on the last game, but as soon as we walk off the field, he’s happy as a lark,” Schuckman said. “ It’s good to put things in perspective for me.
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Dugan has been a part of Carroll football since 2004. A custodian at the school for that time, he doesn’t miss a game and, since 2007, has led the team onto the field, carrying a Carroll flag.
He then runs along the track in front of the student section, waving the huge flag as the crowd screams.
Schuckman said it wouldn’t feel right for the team to run onto the field without Dugan leading the way.
“He is not a good-luck charm,” Schuckman said quietly, but emphatically.
Dugan is an Eagle. He’s a player, he’s a coach, he’s a senior.
“We have him here because Matthew wants to be here,” Patrick said.
Dugan graduated from Maize in 2002, the same year his younger brother, Michael, also a Carroll player, graduated. He wore his Maize letter jacket with pride, but once he started coming to the Carroll sideline, Schuckman said he needed a Carroll jacket.
Dugan wore out the first jacket and got a new one. He earned his first patch after the Eagles won the 2012 5A title and got a championship ring, too. He lost the ring, although Patrick insists he’ll get a new one.
Dugan has cheered his siblings on in every sport they play, always wearing a jersey of whatever team they’re with. He’s the first to say an encouraging word or congratulate them.
Whenever the team rides a bus to the game — including Liberal on Friday — Dugan rides with the offensive players, in the front seat. He helps offensive coordinator Dusty Trail with pregame duties — handing footballs to Trail, who then snaps it to the quarterbacks during drills. All the while, Dugan yells encouragement.
“He gets everybody pumped up,” Christopher said. “When I make a big tackle, he comes to the sideline (and says), ‘Nice hit, bud.’”
Dugan stands on the sideline for games, often doing the signals for the offense.
“I’m pretty sure he knows how to do the signals better than our coaches,” Schuckman said with a laugh.
On Oct. 25, Matthew was introduced, along with Patrick and their parents, during senior night festivities. It was only right to include Matthew in the introduction.
Dugan’s a senior. Every single year.
He loves the seniors and loves to hang out in the senior hallway. He loves Patrick more than Christopher, because, well, Patrick’s the senior.
Christopher laughed, shaking his head.
“He always loves Patrick because he’s the senior,” Christopher said. “Once (Patrick) leaves, he’ll say my name more.”
The Dugans never sat their children down to discuss Matthew’s differences; they treated him like he was just another kid in the family, just like Patrick or Christopher or Michael or Charissa. When Patrick and Christopher head to stay with their mom, Becky, on Mondays and Tuesdays, he goes with them. Same when they spend Wednesdays and Thursdays with their dad, Chris.
“We don’t protect him in that way if he wants something, he has to get up and get it,” Chris said. “He can’t drive or make decisions for himself, but he knows what’s going on around him and in his world.”
Just like any other siblings, there’s a lot of teasing that happens among the Dugans. And their funny stories are rife with talk of Matthew, like the time he accidentally set off the house alarm and the police came. When his family arrived, there was Matthew, on his stomach on the ground, handcuffed. He kept saying, loudly, “Not good!”
“He’s normal just like us,” Patrick said. “He’s just a little bit slower than us.”
When Schuckman tells Dugan what time the bus is leaving for a game, he knows Dugan will be there, ready to go.
“If we have a home game, he’s always there, ready to go, lead us out. I don’t know where he comes from, but he’s there,” Schuckman said.
Dugan is highly protective of his family, and at night he makes sure everyone is in bed before he goes to sleep. He’ll stay up well past midnight watching TV, but wakes early to get dressed up for Mass twice a week at Carroll, always checking with Christopher the night before about what clothes look best.
“You can talk to him, he’ll listen to you, and he’s always there for you,” Patrick said. “He’s just a joy. He puts joy in our lives. That’s the best way I can describe it.”
The joy is evident when Matthew gets out of the car for work, always wearing a smile. The excitement is obvious when he listens to a CD Patrick made him for game days.
His joy is contagious, which is probably why Patrick and Christopher haven’t heard many negative comments about their brother. Their friends think it’s cool that it’s their brother who runs the flag in front of the team. Oh, and the girls are usually enamored of him; Mathew gets more senior pictures of girls than his brothers ever have.
Schuckman laughed and looked over at Matthew, “You’re a chick magnet.”
Dugan smiled and patted Schuckman on the arm.
“Matthew’s everyone’s friend,” Chris said. “You can’t help but love that guy. He breaks things down so simple. If he knows something isn’t going just right, on the football field or someone’s getting in trouble, his two favorite words are ‘Not good, not good.’”