Dealing with adversity is something that many athletes learn to cope with in their careers. Most, though, do not face potentially life-threatening situations.
This was the case for Chad Hagan, the Ohio State football recruit listed at 6-feet-2-inches and 230 pounds, who last April found out he had an uncommon heart condition.
“He was going in for a very minor procedure on his shin … when they went to anesthetize him, the anesthesiologist determined the irregularity in the heartbeat,” said Guy Montecalvo, Hagan’s football coach at Canon-McMillan high school in Canonsburg, Pa.
The condition, Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, causes irregular or rapid heartbeats, sometimes so fast that the chambers of the heart cannot fill back up with blood. This caused his heart to enlarge, which the doctors initially thought was a more serious condition.
“Actually the heart had just grown larger to accommodate the more rapid, immature beats that did not allow the left side of the heart to pump out the necessary blood,” Montecalvo explained.
He was able to return partway through his senior season, playing in five-and-a-half games, recording 497 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 carries and totaling 33 tackles on defense.
During Hagan’s basketball season, another issue seemed to be developing with his rapid heartbeat. The doctors were again able to perform an operation, and Hagan was allowed to return to sports.
While Hagan’s past has been difficult, his future with the Buckeyes looks bright.
“The thing with Chad is, he could be an ultra-freak athlete,” said Kevin Noon, managing editor of Buckeyegrove.com. Registering a 4.4 40-yard dash and a 40-inch vertical, Hagan has all the physical tools to play and be successful at the college level.
In terms of his past medical issues, it seems he will be alright as a Buckeye.
“The doctors have pretty much given him a clean bill of health,” Montecalvo said. “He will continue to be monitored by a cardiologist … but as of now, the heart rate is good.”
This is good news to Buckeye fans, as it seems Hagan has the potential to be a starter in the future in Ohio Stadium.
While Hagan played both offense and defense in high school, it is on the defensive side of the ball where he is going to look to make his mark as a Buckeye. Some recruiting sites list him as a linebacker at the college level. Noon, though, thinks he has the ability to succeed as a safety.
“As long as he proves he has the cover skills, I have no doubt that he’s got the rest of the physical attributes that he could probably be pretty dangerous as [a defensive back],” Noon said. “I think that would be the place he would make the biggest impact.”
Montecalvo, though, thinks those that projected Hagan at the linebacker position have it right.
“I think he could be a great outside linebacker. … He’s getting bigger every week,” Montecalvo said. “Ohio State initially recruited him as a safety, but that was back when he was 205 pounds after his junior year. … I believe he will be a solid 235- to 240-pound player and, needless to say, he can play a lot of places.”
While placing him at a certain position may be problematic for recruiting experts, it seems like it will be a wonderful issue for OSU football coach Jim Tressel to deal with. The question then becomes how soon it will be until fans get to see Hagan on the field.
“I would say he is a candidate to redshirt, but he does have the capability of being on the coverage team,” Noon said. “With the way the depth chart sets up along those lines, that a year on the scout team learning those positions [would be the best].”
Regardless of when or where Ohio State fans see Hagan, it seems the Buckeyes have acquired not only a potentially great football player, but also a great person.
“[Chad] is a very mature young man,” Montecalvo said. “He’s had to go through some very unique circumstances than most of the boys that I’ve coached. Consequently, that’s caused him to grow up and mature a little quicker than some people do. He’s the type of guy that people can lean on and depend on him reaching out to when they have problems.”