John Tuggle

American football player (1961–1986)
American football player
John Tuggle
No. 38
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born:(1961-01-13)January 13, 1961
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Died:August 30, 1986(1986-08-30) (aged 25)
Tijuana, Mexico
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
High school:Independence
(San Jose, California)
NFL draft:1983 / Round: 12 / Pick: 335
Career history
  • New York Giants (1983)
Career NFL statistics
Rushing attempts:17
Rushing yards:49
Receiving yards:50
Return yards:156
Total touchdowns:1
Player stats at

John Davis Tuggle (January 13, 1961 – August 30, 1986) was a running back in the National Football League (NFL).[1] Tuggle was the last selection of the 1983 NFL Draft, selected by the New York Giants.[2] The nickname given to the last player selected in the draft is "Mr. Irrelevant." He played that season with and was awarded the New York Giants Special Teams Player of the Year.

Tuggle played high school football for Independence High School in San Jose, California.[3] The school now holds an annual golf tournament in his memory, as a sports program fundraiser. He went on to play four seasons for the California Golden Bears as their starting fullback, rushing for 1,813 yards and 16 touchdowns, while also catching 108 passes for 914 yards and 3 scores. Tuggle earned a spot in the starting lineup in the fourth game of his true freshman season in 1979, helping the team reach the 1979 Garden State Bowl, the school's first bowl game appearance since 1959. Cal lost the game 28-17 and finished with a 6-6 record. Cal won a combined total of just 4 games during Tuggle's next two seasons, but their 1980 game against Stanford University turned out to be one of the highlights of his career. With a 2-8 record, Cal entered the game as 15-point underdogs against the 6-4 Cardinals led by future NFL Hall of Famer John Elway. Tuggle rushed 27 times for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns in the game, while also catching two passes for 37 yards as his team upset Stanford 28-23 and ruined the Cardinal’s chance of playing in a bowl game.[4] In Tuggle's senior season of 1982, he led the team in rushing and helped them achieve a 7-4 record. In their final game against Stanford, Tuggle had 28 carries for 97 yards, a performance that was largely overshadowed by the game's dramatic ending, known as The Play.[5]

Drafted by the Giants with the last pick of the 1983 draft, Tuggle fought hard to make the roster and secured himself a spot on special teams after some solid plays in the pre-season. He became the first player in league history picked last in the draft to make the NFL on the team that drafted him.[6] Tuggle played most of the 1983 season on special teams, but was promoted to starting fullback in week 12 when Rob Carpenter was injured. He finished the season with 17 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown, three receptions for 50 yards, and 9 kickoff returns for 156 yards. He was voted special teams player of the year by his teammates.

The offseason in 1984 turned out to be less positive. Tuggle got divorced from his wife and suffered a knee injury during a workout, resulting in minor surgery. During the summer, Tuggle and some teammates were involved in a minor car crash when their vehicle struck a telephone pole. The accident wasn't serious, but Tuggle noticed pain in his shoulder that seemed too significant to be entirely the result of the collision. Advised to see a doctor by Carpenter, who was with him in the car, Tuggle was soon diagnosed with cancer.[7] He stayed on the team and continued to work out with them, hoping he could one day return to the field. "You could tell what a terrible thing his chemotherapy was," said Giants conditioning coach Johnny Parker, "but John actually got stronger, and although it broke your heart to do it, he wanted to be pushed, he didn't want sympathy. In the weight room, John Tuggle was not sick. John Tuggle was a standard." The Giants advised Tuggle not to report to training camp in 1985, as that way they would not have to cut him from the team and he could continue to collect his salary until his contract expired in February 1986.[5]

In the final months of his life, Tuggle moved in with a college teammate from his days at Cal, telling him he wanted to die in California. He spent his remaining days undergoing cancer treatment in San Diego and Mexico until his death on August 30, 1986.[8][9] Though they did not keep him on the team after the 1985 season, the Giants paid for Tuggle's health insurance for the remainder of his life, and wore his number 38 on their helmets during their 1986–87 Super Bowl winning season.[10]

Tuggle was the subject of the 30 for 30 short, The Irrelevant Giant.[11][12]


  1. ^ "John Tuggle". Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  2. ^ Finn, Robin (14 September 1986). "TUGGLE'S FIGHT AGAINST TIME". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  3. ^ Finn, Robin. "Tuggle's Fight Against Time" The New York Times. September 14, 1986.
  4. ^ "John Tuggle: Cal's Extraordinary "Mr. Irrelevant"". 18 April 2012.
  5. ^ a b "John Tuggle: Cal's Extraordinary "Mr. Irrelevant"". California Golden Blogs. April 18, 2012.
  6. ^ Weintraub, Robert (22 April 2013). "Once Mr. Irrelevant, a Giant Remains an Inspiring Force". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Weintraub, Robert (22 April 2013). "Once Mr. Irrelevant, a Giant Remains an Inspiring Force". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Holmdel's Tommy Nolan Wins John Tuggle Memorial Award". All Shore Media. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  9. ^ Robin Finn, "Tuggle’s Fight Against Time", The New York Times, 1986-09-14. Retrieved 2011-09-06
  10. ^ Weintraub, Robert. "Once Mr. Irrelevant, a Giant Remains an Inspiring Force". The New York Times. April 21, 2013.
  11. ^ "The Irrelevant Giant - ESPN Films: 30 for 30". ESPN. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  12. ^ "30 for 30: The Irrelevant Giant". ESPN. Retrieved 24 April 2013.

External links

  • Career statistics and player information from · Pro Football Reference
  • v
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Mr. Irrelevant selections
  • v
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New York Giants 1983 NFL draft selections