SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — While the decision may have been difficult at first, today Justin Tuggle doesn’t have any regrets.
It was just about this time last year, as Kansas State was preparing for the Cotton Bowl, that the former junior college transfer began to think about switching positions from quarterback to linebacker.
Tuggle’s senior year was fast approaching and Collin Klein had a firm grip on the quarterback job, to say the least. The 6-foot-3, 237-pound Tuggle knew his opportunities were numbered if he stayed at QB.
Bill Snyder liked the idea and made the move prior to the bowl game against Arkansas.
Tuggle wasn’t unfamiliar with linebacker, though. After all, his father Jessie played linebacker for 13 years with the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s crazy,” Tuggle said this week. “The switch happened around this time last year, so it’s been a year. At first, I was just trying to feel my way in. I spent a lot of time in the film room, working out and trying to do everything I had to in order to get a head of the curve. I knew I was behind, so I had to do a lot to get ahead.”
It’s paid off because now Tuggle is a vital part of the Wildcats’ defense, one that has the daunting task of stopping Oregon Thursday night at 7:30 (CST) when the two teams meet in the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Tuggle has 18 tackles and three sacks this season, while also providing the Wildcats with one of their most exciting plays of the year.
Tuggle sacked Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones at the Sooners’ goal line, causing a fumble that Jarell Childs scooped up and returned for a touchdown in the Wildcats’ 24-19 win on Sept. 29 at Oklahoma.
“Justin, he’s been a great contributor to our team coming from the offensive side of the ball,” K-State senior linebacker Arthur Brown said. “Nobody knew how good he would be, but he’s been a great player for us, a great role player, and he comes in and makes a big impact for our team.”
Tuggle, who once took over QB at Blinn Community College for eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, has no regrets leaving that position behind and moving to linebacker.
“I’m definitely glad I made the switch,” he said. “I feel like it was crazy. I’m still just taking everything in. Everything’s happening so fast for me right now and I’m still learning, still have a lot to learn, but it’s been a great season.”