Best player in school history: Region 3-AAAAA teams

Falcons linebacker Jessie Tuggle points to the crowd after coming up with a huge interception in 1995. (AJC file photo)

Griffin has produced 20 NFL players, the most of any Georgia high school. None was better than Jessie Tuggle, the linebacker who played 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and made five Pro Bowls.

Tuggle was an all-state high school player but lightly regarded then in more ways than one.

“I was 180 pounds, short and playing outside linebacker,” Tuggle told I.J. Rosenberg in a 2015 article for ajc.com. “I was the MVP on my high school team my senior year, but none of the D-I teams thought I could play at their level. They looked at my size and just turned away.”

Tuggle went to Valdosta State, which had just started football and probably couldn’t beat the Valdosta Wildcats when Tuggle stepped foot on campus. In his senior season, Tuggle helped the Blazers to a 9-2 finish – their first winning season – and left as an All-American. Tuggle’s jersey No. 88 was retired there, and there’s a building named after him. Tuggle was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

By the time he got to the Falcons, Tuggle had muscled up to about 235 pounds, though he was still the same 5 feet, 11 inches. Tuggle was in the first class of the Falcons’ Ring of Honor, and his jersey No. 58 is retired.

It would have been plenty just to be the best player from Griffin High. Tuggle is the choice over former Bears Willie Gault, Freddie Gilbert, Randy Baldwin, Omar Ellis, Johnathan Sullivan and Tylan Morton, who last season set the state’s single-season passing yards record.

Here are GHSF Daily’s choices for the best players in the history of the current Region 3-AAAAA schools.

*Fayette County: Brandon Boykin (2007)

*Griffin: Jessie Tuggle (1982)

*McIntosh: Andrew Johnson (2013)

*Morrow: Andre Hastings (1989)

*Riverdale: Cordy Glenn (2007)

*Starr’s Mill: Reuben Houston (2000)

*Whitewater: Joshua Clemons (2010)

Best player in school history series

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