Justin Tuggle in the footsteps of his father


When you think of great Atlanta Falcons of the past, one of the names that always comes up is Jessie Tuggle. Now, his son Justin is trying to make his way in the NFL with the Houston Texans.

The Falcons find themselves in Houston, Texas this week for combined practice(s) and a game with the home standing Texans. Justin is now a second year linebacker with the team and is trying to win a starting role at one of the two inside spots. He’s also trying to impress this week in front of his dad’s team.

“It’s cool,” Tuggle said. “I remember being at training camp when I was young, behind my dad following him everywhere that he went. Now I get to practice against them. So it’s a cool experience to come full circle and actually get to experience it on the other end now.”

The Northview product made the team last season as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State. He’s now battling for playing time at an inside linebacker spot with players like veterans Mike Mohamed and Jeff Tarpinian to start alongside a hopefully healthy Brian Cushing. Tuggle is almost experiencing another rookie season this training camp in the playbook.

“I’m an inside backer now, I was an outside backer last year,” Tuggle said. “So it’s just picking up on the things on the inside, making all the calls, and I feel like I’ve done a good job with that.”

Last season, Tuggle played under one-time Falcons defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in a similar 3-4 defense. This year, he’s under the tutelage of former New England Patriots/Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.

During the 2013 season, Justin Tuggle racked up 14 tackles and forced one fumble. He’s got a long way to go before he’s on the level of his father Jessie, a member of the Falcons Ring of Honor who was a five time Pro Bowler and three time All-Pro selection in the NFL. Justin says those memories that have now become a reality for him, have made him think of his dad as even more of a positive influence. He says those days at the Falcons facility and Georgia Dome mean a lot to him.

“Walking in/out of locker-rooms and trying to get into meetings when I could, Game days going into the locker room, I just cherished all those memories as a kid,” Tuggle said. “Now to actually play in the league and see what he did, I have a new respect for him with tough times he went through.”

One of Jessie’s teammates on the Falcons teams in the 1990’s was defensive end Chuck Smith. He has now become one of the foremost trainers of pass-rushers through all levels of football. He’s also someone that Justin says he relies upon for his success in the NFL.

“I actually work out with Chuck in the offseason,” Tuggle said. “We definitely stay in touch and we text time and time again. I’m thankful for Chuck and everything that he has done to help me develop. I’m thankful for my dad as well. Those two have put a lot of work in me and I’m just trying to be the best player I can be.”

Justin Tuggle is now a 6-3, 249 pound linebacker with the Texans. However, that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, he was a quarterback once upon a time. Falcons QB Matt Ryan knows a thing or two about the son of the Falcons legend.

“He actually started off at BC (Boston College), so I was a fan of his early on,” Ryan said. “He’s playing a different positon and has filled out a little bit since then. He’s doing a nice job for their defense.”

Tuggle will likely play meaningful minutes on Saturday night against the Texans at NRG Stadium. This is also because Texans linebacker Brian Cushing is unlikely to play, despite returning to the practice field for the first time since breaking his leg last season. So, it could be weird for Falcons fans to hear Wes Durham or Randy Watters say, “Justin Tuggle with the tackle.” This is something we will probably hear in that second preseason game.


Tags: , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply