One of Tallahassee’s native sons returned home late last month when former Florida State wide receiver Ron Dugans was announced as the new coach of the position and at the school where he once played.
Dugans, who played for the Seminoles from 1995-99 after attending Florida A&M High School, never got the national accolades that others in the receiving corps like Peter Warrick nor had the lengthy NFL career like Laveranues Coles did, but was involved in many big moments. In his final game at FSU, Dugans finished with 99 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including the one that put the Seminoles ahead for good, in a 46-29 Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech for the national championship.
The year prior in a 23-16 loss to Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl for the national title, Dugans led FSU with a then career-high 135 yards receiving on six catches and for over 57 percent of the Seminoles’ total offense. That came one game after Dugans caught a 46-yard touchdown to help cement a 23-12 victory over Florida in a top-5 match-up in Tallahassee.
“To see him get into coaching, it’s not a surprise,” said Todd Frier, a former defensive back who was part of Dugans’ incoming class. “When you’ve competed and lost and competed and won, you know what it takes. Ron knows how and why we had success and all the work we put into it.”
Dugans will be part of a new-look offensive staff for head coach Willie Taggart that includes first-year offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and likely offensive line coach Randy Clements. Frier noted that he was said to see former teammate Greg Frey leave. As for Dugans, Frier recalls Dugans’ speed, strength and 40-inch vertical, but that wasn’t the only thing that stood out about him as a player.
“Ron was always a real likable person,” Frier recalls. “He was the ultimate competitor. He was always a hard worker. As a player, he just flat-out outworked people.”
After a short career in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, Dugans first joined the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant at FSU in 2005. Full-time stops since then include Georgia Southern, Louisville, South Florida where he worked under Taggart and most recently, Miami.
“Ron has always been a leader and a motivator,” said Tarlos Thomas, a 3-year starter at tackle for FSU from 1998-2000. “I can remember the Clemson game in 1999 when we weren’t playing good at all in the first half.
“I can remember him coming into the locker room at halftime and talking to the offensive line about protecting the quarterback and also assuring us that if we protected the quarterback, the receivers will get it together and do their job. He’s always been that type of guy.”
Famously referred to as Bowden Bowl I for the father-son head coaching match-up featuring Florida State’s Bobby Bowden and Clemson’s Tommy Bowden, Florida State overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit to top Clemson at Death Valley, 17-14. Dugans finished with 83 yards receiving on seven catches, including three on the drive that set up Sebastian Janikowski’s game-winning field goal with 5:26 remaining.
Frier said Dugans’ intensity and work ethic was magnified prior to the 1999 national championship season when both players were redshirt seniors.
“It kind of caught wind with our whole senior class,” Frier said. “When we came in, we thought we’d win two or three national championships. By the time our senior year came around, we had lost two and we hadn’t won one yet. He was always just such a hard worker. Ron being there gives me hope that things can go back to being the way they were.”