Reporting Nate Griffin
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(HOUSTON) CBS Houston – Many of us search and enter new life opportunities with hopes of doing well and breaking barriers never before realized. The aim, especially in a business relationship, is for all parties involved to find mutual benefit and agreement.
The world of professional football is primarily supported on the concept of best talent in exchange for unusually large sums of money as it relates to owners, coaches, and players. The ‘best talent’ reference via the NFL is generally reserved for top draft picks. However, in rare instances, undrafted rookies come along and leave lasting impressions which just can’t be ignored.
Outside linebacker Justin Tuggle is one such player. He is an undrafted rookie free-agent from Kansas State who landed a spot on the Houston Texans 53-man roster.
“My goal was to make the roster – from day one.” Tuggle said. “When I got the call, talked to Coach Reggie (Herring, Texans LB Coach), and he told me, ‘if you want to come and make a name for yourself, come down here and let’s do it.’ So, I took that and ran with it! I’m the type of guy to see and opportunity and make the most of it. And I feel that I’ve made the most of my opportunities since I’ve been here.”
Justin had a great teacher – his Dad – Jessie Tuggle.
DAD WAS ALSO A ROOKIE FREE AGENT
That’s right! If you watched the Atlanta Falcons, were a fan, or have been a fan of the NFL, you probably know that name. The story is, Jessie Tuggle was also an undrafted rookie free agent from Valdosta College in 1987. He played all 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and was inducted to their Hall of Honor in 2007.
Tuggle recorded 1640 tackles, 21 sacks, 6 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, and 37 pass deflections. He set an NFL record by turning 5 of those 10 forced fumbles into touchdowns. Also, the record for tackles still stands for Tuggle with 1293 from 1990 to 1999. In addition to his exploits in the NFL, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
While Jesse’s son, Justin, is looking to create his own path, Justin admitted that being raised in a household with an NFL Dad has so far played a big part in his success today. Justin says his Dad’s reaction was priceless.
“He said he just really couldn’t believe it. It was a big day for me and I felt like it was a big day for him too. ‘Cause he’s been there with me through everything I’ve been through throughout college, throughout high school, just really my whole life. So, it was a big day for both of us.”
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TURNED DEFENSIVE
The Texans desperately need depth at linebacker. Justin can thank his lucky stars for the decision he made to switch to the defense. The switch from quarterback to linebacker took place prior to Kansas State’s tilt versus Arkansas in the January, 2012 Cotton Bowl. One might think that the transition from quarterback to linebacker would be difficult. But, not so says the Alpharetta, Georgia native.
“I don’t really miss it to tell you the truth,” says Tuggle. “I’m having fun playing defense. It’s a lot more reaction than other things going on than (at) quarterback. Quarterback is a lot of responsibility. You got to know the ins and outs of every single position. You got to just really command everything. It’s the same with different positions. But, defensive is more reaction. I like to go out there, see something, react, and make plays.”
Tuggle will be given that opportunity in this offense as the Texans will face the Chargers in San Diego on Monday night. His expects his experience at quarterback to pay big dividends in his new job of helping to man the Texans defense.
“I think I can see backfield sets and have an understanding for what’s going on. I think it really helps me when I’m studying film and just trying to learn the playbook and everything like that.
“It takes so much to get an offense down because usually the offense is the last thing that comes around. You always see the defense pick up first. So, I just try to take everything that I learned before and sort of reverse it a little bit and help me on defense.”
If the younger Tuggle can help the Texans defense similar to the way his Dad helped the Falcons, the Texans might find themselves in a Superbowl just like the Falcons during the 1998-99 season.
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