After a junior season that saw him play with a stress fracture in his left tibia, the three-star safety prospect from Canonsburg (Pa.) Canon-McMillan went in to have a slight bone graft performed on the injured appendage. It was there, as he was about to be put under for the procedure, that an anesthesiologist noticed Hagan's irregular heartbeat on a monitor.
If not for that, Hagan would literally be putting his life at risk every time he put on his shoulder pads, lifted weights or even jogged down the driveway to the mailbox. The discovery led to a subsequent diagnosis of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which results in an elevated heartbeat following physical activity – a condition Hagan said he has lived with for his entire life but never sought treatment for because he assumed that was normal.
If you consider having a heart rate of 240 following football practice normal, that is.
"If my heart rate had ever gotten over 280 or close to 300 then I could have keeled over and died," he told BSB. "Whenever they told me that it was kind of scary. I just thought to myself, ‘I could've died at any time.' "
The condition was discovered in April, and the Ohio State verbal commitment underwent heart surgery in late July. A Sept. 11 MRI showed that Hagan's heart was in perfect condition, Canon-McMillan head coach Guy Montecalvo said. Now almost two months later, Hagan has returned to the field and took part in his first game of the season Sept. 18.
Hagan returned to action Sept. 14, a day when practices are geared around the offense. A two-way player who is being recruited to play as a safety for the Buckeyes, he also lines up as a tailback in high school.
That first day of practice was a great feeling, he said. The next day, which focused on defensive drills, was even better.
"(Sept. 14) is (an) offensive day and I felt so good making all my cuts and everything," he said. "I felt like so many people trying to tackle me, if they got in the way I was just running over them or by them. (The next day) on defense we had defensive 2-on-1s and I play safety. There were times when I felt like I couldn't get to the ball and was just nailing people coming across the middle and destroying them."
Until that point, Hagan had been allowed to take part in some non-contact drills but was not allowed to fully exert himself.
Needless to say, it was a tough period for the 6-0, 207-pound athlete.
"When they told me I couldn't play sports, I said, ‘That really doesn't make sense to me because I've played with this my whole life and I'm handling it just fine now,' " Hagan said. "I did everything they asked me and I feel so much better. It's for the better because I don't feel any racing anymore when practice is over."
The way he handled it was just one reason why Hagan's teammates elected him as one of three team captains this fall.
"I'm sure it was very hard, but he handled it in such a mature fashion that you never would have known it," the coach said. "He just became a tremendous support for his teammates. He's one of our three captains and he just acted like a captain/coach during the process."
Throughout the process, Hagan also had to deal with the fact that he was being recruited. He and Montecalvo made the decision not to tell any of the schools calling Hagan until they had a final verdict one way or the other, but an unofficial visit to Columbus in early August resulted in Hagan jumping the gun and issuing a verbal commitment to the Buckeyes.
According to Hagan, they would have taken him regardless of his heart condition.
"I waited a while to tell them because I didn't want to scare them off," he said. "I guess they had spoken with my coach and they said, ‘Hey, look, we weren't going anywhere. If he wasn't able to play, we'd still keep a scholarship on him.' "
The Buckeyes are recruiting Hagan as a safety, a position he said he is excited to play in college. While on campus for the OSU-USC game, Hagan said he enjoyed watching OSU's Kurt Coleman and USC's Taylor Mays patrol the field.
Although Montecalvo said there are some concerns about Hagan's academics, he remains on pace to be a Buckeye when the 2010 season rolls around. For that, he has an injury and an anesthesiologist to thank.
"I'm sure it was a very trying time for Chad and his entire family and all the people that care about him," the coach said. "He showed great resolve throughout the entire situation and was extremely mature in the way that he handled it and really had a deep, abiding faith that things were going to be OK."