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Jesse Tuggle

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If you want to compare him to a modern day guy, I say that his game was alot like Antonio Pierce of the Giants: an extremely hard hitter (the "Hammer" moniker was well earned), who blew up ball carriers between the tackles, but could also go sideline to sideline, despite not possessing great speed. He had great football "smarts," and game "quickness," which made up for lack of 40 time. Most of all, the guy had a true "motor" as in a younger Zach Thomas, and his play gave an identity to our defense.

In case you don't know his story, Tuggle was an undrafted free agent from a small school (Valdosta State), with small size (6'0, 230), and very average speed. When he arrived to training camp, all anyone expected was a training camp body. What ended up happening is an inspiration to any football player with the heart to play at a high level, and talent that is potentially undiscovered (in some ways, like a Harvey Dahl).

What he had going for him was the knack to be around the football alot (thus, he led the team in tackles almost every year), and if he ever got a straight shot at a ball carrier, he absolutely blew people up. Again, he had great football instincts and flowed quickly to the play. On pass plays, he was somewhat of a liability, but he did have a knack for coming up with turnovers throughout his career.

Because he was on a lot of bad teams, Tuggle will probably never be in the Hall of Fame. Being a smaller linebacker, he also got exposed alot during years when we had weak d-lines. But even so, he was one of the few bright spots on the defense, other than Deion Sanders or Scott Case (when he was in his prime)... Also, he was the type of guy that let his play do the talking, instead of his mouth, so he went unrecognized for most of his career, except by Falcon fans and other teams' coaches/peers. He was actually a pretty quiet, humble type of country guy, but on game day, after knocking somebody off his cleats, he was known to give a howl or two. Not a real "game-changer," but a guy who gave a steady, hard-hitting effort every Sunday, and earned the respect of his teammates and opponents through his play.

My greatest memory of him, was one year, when the Falcons beat the Niners in the final game of the year, to get into the playoffs. Tuggle had a big interception of Steve Young at the end of the game. He held up the ball, was screaming over and over, and if I remember correctly, there were tears in his eyes. That year, nobody, absolutely nobody gave us a chance, and that game was a statement to the will of the team. And the Dome did not even sell out in time, so the game was blacked out. But they showed the final minutes of the game on CBS, I think, and when he plucked off the pass, the Dome was the loudest I've ever heard it, up to that point...

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