Despite a rare brain disorder that forced him to stop playing professional football, and 17 brain surgeries since to try and stop his pain, Chris Dugan tells people he’s lucky.
"There’s a lot of people that are worse off than me," said Dugan, who is preparing for his 18th brain surgery next month. "I just want to make a difference in people’s lives and have a positive impact on as many people’s lives as I can."
The Apache Junction 40-year-old was a kicker and punter for three NFL teams — in 1991 with the Buffalo Bills, in 1992 with the Denver Broncos and in 1993 with the Seattle Seahawks. At the end of 1992, he started having constant head pain and was extremely lethargic. His balance and coordination was off keel and he began to experience blurred, double vision.
Doctors discovered he had an arachnoid cyst, causing Chiari malformation, a condition where a portion of the brain protrudes into the spinal canal.
"I’m glad I have it," Dugan said. "It’s definitely given me a different perspective. Believe me, things happen for a reason."
He said his disorder has allowed him to reach out to people. He keeps his mind off his searing head pain by motivating others to be committed to anything they do, whether it’s a relationship, job or school. He said his faith
also keeps him going.
After a five-day coma in 2000, he realized there was a reason he was going through all this. He wanted to make an impact on people’s lives, to tell his story and help others. His main focus is junior high and high school kids and athletes of any age.
He talks about overcoming limitations people put on themselves. He preaches taking good risks in life, getting out of a comfort zone and getting out there and making things happen.
He also teaches private football instruction, trains athletes and conducts kicking camps.
His ultimate goal is to play professional football again, write a motivational book and speak to doctors about their treatment of patients.
One of the students Dugan has helped is Kenny Golladay, a recent Mountain View High School graduate who was an all-state kicker in 2004, broke his Mesa high school’s record for longest field goal and made it to the Arizona All Stars football team in June. The 18-yearold attributes his success to Dugan.
"He changed my life," said Golladay, a Scottsdale Community College freshman. "He’s really encouraging. He can build your attitude really
strong. He’s just an uplifting guy."