Oct. 4, 2012
By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - For the majority of Justin Tuggle’s football life, he’s been the ‘hitee’ instead of the ‘hitter,’ but that has now changed.
Laughing, Tuggle said, “Delivering a hit is a lot better than being hit. It’s far more fun.”
Having fun is exactly what the 6-foot-3, 233-pound senior is doing now from his outside linebacker position after being a quarterback the last three seasons – one at K-State, one at Blinn College and one at Boston College.
Ranked as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback at the junior college level, Tuggle hit the K-State campus last year being hyped as the next Michael Bishop.
You remember, the Michael Bishop that led the Wildcats to 22 wins in 1997 and 1998 when he ran for 1,314 yards and passed for 4,401 and accounted for 59 run/pass touchdowns in his two-year career.
For Tuggle, there was one problem. Also in the K-State camp was a lad by the name of Collin Klein, who was a tad more familiar with the offensive system and had no intention of giving up the quarterback position.
“I just wanted to get on the field,” Tuggle said of encouraging his own personal position switch. “I didn’t really want to be the guy who backed (Klein) up the whole year. I wanted to do something with my last year playing, so I made the switch.”
A native of Alpharetta, Ga., Tuggle redshirted the 2008 season at Boston College before playing in three games in 2009, passing for 229 yards and four touchdowns.
Not satisfied, he transferred to Blinn College where in 2010 he ran for 73 yards and passed for 2,015 yards and accounted for 29 touchdowns.
Last year as a Wildcat, Tuggle made it onto the field in just four games as a special teams player, which led him to the office of Bill Snyder in the weeks prior to the Cotton Bowl.
“I came to play quarterback, but it was apparent that Collin was doing great and there wasn’t going to be an opportunity for me to play,” said Tuggle, who has eight tackles this year with five of those being solo arrests. “I wanted to be on the field so I wanted to talk about switching positions and it’s worked out well. I’m excited about the opportunity. I just need to continue to work hard.”
Working hard during the spring and summer seasons allowed Tuggle to be a starter in his first three games and then came off the bench against Oklahoma to play a starring role with a sack and a forced fumble that Jarell Childs recovered for a touchdown in K-State’s 24-19 victory.
“I had an opportunity to make a play and took advantage of the opportunity,” Tuggle said of his sack of OU quarterback Landry Jones. “I’ve been in that situation as a quarterback where you have no clue where the defensive guy is and where he’s coming from. He’s looking down the field so if you can get him from the back and get your hands in there the ball can pop out.”
To Snyder it just was an instinctive play made by an instinctive football player whether playing offense or defense.
Of Tuggle, who has made the switch from quarterback, and of Childs, who has made the switch from running back, Snyder said, “Both have some instincts for the game itself. They are athletic in that they can run well and change direction well. They’re intelligent young guys who have picked up the system rather quickly. For someone with those characteristics it’s not that dramatic of a change from quarterback/running back to linebacker. Not if you have football smarts.”
Linebacking teammate Tre Walker said of Tuggle, “Justin’s progression has been real good. He looks just like the son of an NFL linebacker.”
And that’s exactly the bloodline that Tuggle has, as his father, Jessie, played 14 seasons in the National Football League, which included five Pro Bowl seasons.
“We talk every night,” Tuggle said prior to the start of the season. “He’s definitely a go-to guy to talk to. We talk every night for anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours. He brings a lot to the table for me.”
While some might balk about going to their father for advice, Tuggle has looked up to his dad for years.
“Once I was old enough to understand what football was all about, I understood that he was good,” said Tuggle. “I went to every game, went into the locker room and went to practices. His name and picture used to be on billboards when I was little, so I understood then he must be pretty special.”
And pretty special is exactly what Tuggle has become with the Wildcats.
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