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TLC 'Married by Mom and Dad' star and local man talks about his TV life

Devin Duggan, of St. Petersburg, married Ursula Mae Manganaro on TV after his parents chose her for their son. (Courtesy of TLC)
Published Jan. 24, 2017

TAMPA — Devin Duggan had an arranged marriage — of sorts.

It wasn't for religious or cultural reasons. It's not like the Tampa Bay area man knew growing up that, one day, his parents would pick his wife.

No, that development came later, when he was approached by a reality TV producer.

At first there was a chance to compete on The Bachelorette. He said a stomach virus kept him from vying for bachelorette JoJo Fletcher's heart, but his desire to appear on TV still burned.

A month after the final rose ceremony of The Bachelorette aired on ABC, Duggan, then 26, was standing at a very real altar in Clearwater's Kapok Special Events Center, about to marry a stranger from New Paltz, N.Y., named Ursula Mae Manganaro.

"I think the biggest thing I tell people is that to get something you've never had, you've got to do something you've never done before," Duggan said during a recent conversation at Starbucks on S Howard Avenue in Tampa. "It means taking a big chance."

Duggan is blunt: He wanted to be on TV. When the option to involve his parents in his love life came up, he decided to take it. Duggan was open to love, and he didn't want to be the player or the cheater anymore.

His friends said he was crazy. His parents hoped he was serious about settling down. People in public ask if his wedding was real.

The Tampa Bay Times checked: Yep, Duggan, who just turned 27, has a marriage license filed with Hillsborough County. Manganaro, 30, also has a photo of herself in the county courthouse with former State Attorney Mark Ober's name visible on a wall in the background.

For months leading up to the show, Duggan's parents, Lisa and Frank, were sent dozens of DVDs — six to 12 per week — of potential partners for their son. His mother never imagined her "chick-magnet" only child would need help finding a wife.

Lisa Duggan said she knew she favored Manganaro near the start. Every week she'd call the producers and let them know who was in and who was out. Eventually, the decision narrowed down enough for the parents to go on "dates" with the women, as chronicled in the first few episodes of the season.

"I just thought it was the craziest thing," Lisa Duggan said. "There are cultures who do this to this day, but it's not an Americanized thing."

Up until the moment the couple faced each other at the altar, either one of them could have said no, she said.

Both said "I do." The next day, the couple had brunch with their parents at South Tampa's Datz restaurant and took their honeymoon in St. Augustine.

Duggan works in marketing for Ecolab, a global water, hygiene and energy technologies and services company. It's not as glamorous as his first career path — professional football.

Duggan grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from Duquesne University. Then, he went into the NFL. He was invited to training camps, but nothing stuck.

He finally hung up his helmet and moved to Tampa after a friend who was having success in sales sold him on the city in early 2015.

"I went from making money playing football to a . . . sales job," Duggan said. "I realized I wasn't missing the money, I was missing more the attention."

Duggan is chatty and charismatic. He smiles big, talks with his hands and doesn't take life too seriously. He hopes to appear on another show in the near future and is open about what it took to get on reality TV.

There were physicals, drug tests, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, psychiatric evaluations and several interviews. He has a sense for what makes good TV — like when his Sept. 1 wedding was threatened by Hurricane Hermine.

"The more drama, the more better," he said with a laugh.

When his soon-to-be wife walked down the aisle, Duggan was nervous. Beads of sweat collected on his forehead — though he swears he's always been "a sweater."

"I don't think I have a hard time dating or finding girls," he said. "I think this was a different avenue to experience that."

Married by Mom and Dad will finish airing on TLC in the first week of February, so Duggan wasn't allowed to share many details about his married life.

But he did say he recently moved into a new home in St. Petersburg and doesn't regret the less-than-traditional experience.

"It's only crazy if it doesn't work out," he said. "If it works out, you're a genius."

Senior Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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