All the hard work paid off on Monday for Penn Hills 2024 three-star quarterback Julian Dugger as he announced his commitment to his hometown Pitt Panthers.
Dugger has held an offer from a while, but it wasn’t for him to play quarterback. The Pitt coaches were offering him as an athlete.
While they weren’t ruling out Dugger playing quarterback, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, Jr. and head coach Pat Narduzzi needed to see more in his game before he had the opportunity to commit to them strictly as a quarterback.
That’s where former North Allegheny star and NFL quarterback Mike McMahon entered the picture.
McMahon, the former fifth round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, has gotten into high school coaching and training local quarterbacks. Dugger reached out to McMahon at the beginning of the year for guidance, and the pair have trained together consistently ever since.
Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke Monday evening with McMahon about his star pupil and the excitement that he had talking about Dugger was quite evident.
“This is big for him because before this, I think a lot of people were looking at him as just an athlete,” said McMahon. “I told him, you’re good enough to play quarterback. Not only at the D-I level, but he has the tools and if he continues to work hard and progress, he has the tools to play on Sunday. I truly believe that. I played with Pat White from West Virginia and with Eric Crouch, a Heisman Trophy winner, both those guys were asked to switch positions with the teams I was with. After viewing them, they should have switched. People were asking Julian to switch, and I told him, ‘No you’re good enough, you have the arm strength, you have the touch, we’ll iron out your footwork.’ I’m just excited to see him get better and how far he goes.”
Aside from him being a lefty, Dugger and McMahon have similar skills on the field in terms of mobility and arm strength. McMahon told PSN that the biggest things he’s worked on with Dugger are sliding in the pocket, a quicker release and getting comfortable in throwing to where his receivers will be — trusting them.
“The one thing about Julian is that he works so hard,” McMahon said. “He just has a work ethic and has a want that not too many people have. There’s something about Julian, he has that it factor. For me, fortunately, I had the chance to play golf for three years with Lawrence Taylor and two years with Michael Jordan, and he has something similar to both of those guys. He has an extreme desire to win, to be good. He’s a competitor. If he doesn’t get it right, he’ll stay longer to work and to fix it. That work ethic as a coach, when you see a kid that wants to work that hard, that wants to learn, that wants to be great, you want to give as much effort to him.
“He’s a great kid to be around. He’s very likeable. When I have groups working out, every kid is drawn to Julian and all want to be paired up with him. I have parents and players ask me to come when Julian is coming because he pushes our kids to be better. He’s great with the other kids, he’s not arrogant, he’s competitive and is just a great kid all around.”
Pitt was the only Power Five offer that Dugger held, but after scouts watched him at various camps this summer, there’s a belief out there that the only thing holding back more Power Five teams from offering was game tape. In his first three years at Penn Hills, the offensive scheme wasn’t pass heavy, which didn’t allow Dugger to show off his skills. That is likely to change this season.
“Last year was the first year with his new coaches and his new coordinator,” said McMahon. “I went and met with them and talked about the passing game and they have some great concepts. I think this year being their second year with Julian, I think they’ll begin to gel.
“Penn Hills has a ton of great athletes over there and I think you might see a bit more of an opening of their offense this year. I would love to help them in any way that I can because I’m helping Julian. I think Penn Hills has all the tools to be state champions this year. I think they’re going to lean on Julian a lot this year, and I think he’ll be ready for it. I think this will be a big year for Julian and for Penn Hills. I believe that they should be the favorites on the western side of the state.”
Pitt has their future quarterback and aside from Dugger and his family, there might not be a person prouder than McMahon.
“This is all a testament to him wanting to learn, wanting to work and getting there,” said McMahon. “There were nights that we were there for over two and a half hours so that he got the proper footwork and was perfect and could do it without thinking about it. He has all the tools; I know what he’s going to be like.
“The Pitt coaches are going to love him. Kids are going to go home on break, he’s going to be at the facility working. He’s going to constantly be there, asking questions and want to get better. The coaches are going to truly love working with him and they’re going to see a kid that is going to progress into a great college quarterback and hopefully to one that plays on Sundays.”