Every year, year after year, something beautiful happens. The NFL Draft gives 256 young men the opportunity of a lifetime, by being drafted onto a professional football team. We always hear about the amazing potential of the first pick. There was Cam Newton, star QB of the Panthers. There was Trent Richardson, now starting Running Back for the Browns. We even hear about the others from later in the 1st round, 2nd round, etc. Tom Brady went in the 6th round and is now renowned as one of the best Quarterbacks in the NFL. However, what about that last pick? That 256th and final pick of a draft.
This pick has a name. The Irrelevant pick. It also has an award. The Lowsman Award. It mocks the famous Heisman trophy, given to the most outstanding college football player of the year by depicting a similar figure dropping the football.
We often overlook the last place or last chosen person in society. Does anyone feel bad about the kid being picked last for a pickup basketball game? Or, do the players that were picked, continue with the game and forget about it because, well, they were picked. The last pick in the Draft, does anyone give them a chance? Well, obviously at least a small chance, as they were picked. Questions, and even more questions that can only be answered by experiences, thoughts, and ideas. What if you were the last picked? Or rather, your best friend. What would you do? Again, even more questions.
However, all of these questions can be symbolized by that last pick. The “winner” of the Lowsman award. That last guy to be picked, almost left out, and able to just hang on. In 1983, 255 picks were selected. The New York Giants held the last pick in that draft. John Tuggle, out of the University of California was drafted last that year. Tuggle trained, trained, and oh yeah, he trained his butt off. Eventually, Tuggle made it through camp and earned a spot on the team; An unlikely feat for the Lowsman winner. After, Tuggle impressed his coaches yet again, kept his spot on the team and won Special Teams Player of the Year. Talk about some guy who was almost left behind, and just won an award demonstrating his excellence on the field. However, despite his success, determination, and hard-work, Tuggle hit a major bump in the road. Tuggle was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The survival rate was slim.
I’m not going to surprise you. Tuggle did die. However, the actions this guy displayed from the day he was diagnosed to the day he died were absolutely spectacular and something to model. He never stopped working. After chemotherapy three months into his treatment, Tuggle kept his workout routine constant. Even being able to squat 350 pounds, with the unlikely chances of survival, Tuggle kept pushing. He remained optimistic and told his coaches he’d be ready for camp at the start of the season. That, obviously would not happen. Tuggle died two months after that time. But, one instance is amazing. Tuggle walked into his coach, Bill Parcell’s office. He walked in, popped open some champagne, and told his coach, he wouldn’t be seeing him for camp. His conditions were worsening and his chance of survival became more and more unlikely. The day Tuggle died, which he did in his sleep, he again, was seen working out, eating well, and being optimistic.
How could someone be so optimistic after a lifetime of disappointment? He was picked last, and amidst his fortune in the NFL was diagnosed with a terminal disease. And then, even so, remained positive. Now if you don’t believe in role models, this guy must become close. Tuggle was a great man and should rest in peace.
This is not about football. This piece goes out to anyone who has ever been picked last, been disappointed, had to deal with the worst of times, and outright bullied. Even though Tuggle was dealt awful cards, he made the most out of his life. See, life is too short to dwell on the past and care about your past hurtings. Tuggle died as a 25 year old. So whenever you are down, remember John Tuggle. Because no one is irrelevant.