"Don't focus on yourself. Get your teammates involved. Get them involved whether watching film or running or whatever you are going to do," Dugans told TheTerritory Monday.
"A lot of guys read the magazines and see that this team has such-and-such player… but (NFL) scouts don't (care). I stress that to a lot of the guys. Don't focus … take care of business here before you think of the NFL. I just try to show the guys and tell them how it was when we were here. I went through the same thing my junior year (1998). We figured all we had to do was step foot on the field and teams would lay down. Then N.C. State handed it to us (24-7). We all knew we had to get back to work."
Dugans is a local product made good, a FAMU High graduate who was part of four consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championships and a national title at FSU (1999). Dugans has spent the past three seasons in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he and former FSU teammate Peter Warrick look help recapture that organization's winning ways under first-year coach Marvin Lewis.
In the past 12 seasons, the Bengals haven't done a very good job of winning. Their 55-137 record is well-documented, but even more disturbing is how often the team has begun looking forward to the next season before half of its present one is done. During those 12 seasons of losing, the Bengals are 17-74 in September and October.
The Bengals finished 2-14 last season, the first time they have ever failed to win at least three games in a season since their inception in 1968. They ended up allowing 456 poins, the second most in club history and just four shy of the 460 the 1999 club allowed.
Dugans said the hiring of Lewis, however, has given players hope. The team recently finished its final minicamp and Dugans returned to Tallahassee Saturday. He plans to work out at FSU as much as possible before leaving for training camp July 27. Additionally, Cincy strength coaches Chip Morton and Kurtis Schultz prepared workout packets for players leaving town. The packets detail specific running and stretching drills for each player
"Everybody is excited in Cincinnati," Dugans said. "Since I've been there, that was the most guys we had in town from April on. This year we had just about 100 percent turnout. Everybody wants to play for Marvin. The fans are excited. We are excited. It's a different atmosphere."
While the Bengals tabbed quarterback Carson Palmer has the top overall selection in the NFL draft, he's expected to be the backup behind of Jon Kitna. Dugans, meanwhile, enjoyed his best NFL season in terms of production last year, finishing with 47 catches for 421 yards.
Drafted by the Bengals in the third round (66th overall), Dugans was a part of two historical firsts in his NFL debut on Sept. 10, 2000 against Cleveland. He joined Warrick as the first rookies from the same college to open a season as starting receivers for the same NFL team. And early in the second quarter, Dugans scored the first Bengals regular-season touchdown at new Paul Brown Stadium on a 4-yard pass from Akili Smith.
Dugans, of course, also has kept a close eye on the Seminoles. After going undefeated at 12-0 and winning a national title his senior year at FSU, Dugans as watched the Seminoles finish 11-2, 8-4, and 9-5. A smiling Dugans said he's reminded daily of his alma mater's struggles by teammates.
"We hear it in the locker room," Dugans said and laughed.
"Even if we struggle and win the game, guys will come up and say, ‘Did you guys win yesterday? What happened? It's just as tough on us as it is on these guys. They (media) ask about Cincinnati first and then ask about FSU. A lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon when we were winning… you always have your critics when you are struggling. You are always going to have people pointing fingers and saying this and that. This team just needs to go out and work."
That message is worth repeating, Dugans said.
"You want to stress to the guys that you have to fight it and push through it when you want to give up," said Dugans, who finished with 105 career receptions to rank 15th on FSU's all-time list.
"When I was here at Florida State, you never saw that. You had guys pushing each other. You want to see more of that. These guys look like they have that. I see a lot of enthusiasm and that's important."