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Patrick Deuel

FOR NINE years Patrick Deuel, 44, couldn't leave his house in Valentine, Neb. But that was 672 pounds ago. After gastric bypass surgery and a lo-cal diet, the life-long Nebraska football fan—who topped out at 1,072 pounds—fulfilled his dream of attending a Cornhuskers game at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 4, when Nebraska pummeled Missouri 34--20 on homecoming weekend.

Deuel, currently 400 pounds, is a shadow of the man he once was, when he couldn't get out of his bed for seven months because he was too big. His rapid weight loss left him with a mass of loose skin—81 pounds' worth—that doctors removed in March. Deuel (above) now ventures out to the grocery store and to dinner with his wife, Edith. He even bought a bike. "Sometimes I'll think, Wow, I'm actually going somewhere," he says.

One of his favorite memories of the Missouri game came when Nebraska wide receiver Maurice Purify took a handoff and threw a 28 yard touchdown. "The catch was right in front of me," Deuel says. But the atmosphere in the stadium will stay with him the longest. "Until you've been part of that sea of red, you haven't seen a Nebraska game." This month, Deuel will go to his family's home for Christmas for the first time in a decade.

Next up: Deuel hopes to quit smoking. "I'll do one demon at a time," he says.