November 20, 2018

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Jessie Tuggle to Speak at VSU’s 226th Commencement Ceremony

Jessie Tuggle

VALDOSTA — Jessie Tuggle, former professional football linebacker who played for the Atlanta Falcons, will deliver the keynote address during Valdosta State University’s Fall 2018 commencement ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, on the Front Lawn.

“Graduation is a defining moment in every student’s life,” said Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of VSU. “We are excited to pay tribute to the outstanding efforts of our fall graduates and celebrate education as the foundation upon which success is built. These students have had to overcome any number of challenges to reach this point in their life’s journey. It is that very perseverance that protects and nurtures Blazer Nation’s tradition of academic, creative, athletic, research, and service excellence.”

Tuggle graduated from Valdosta State in 1992 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in management. He has publicly credited the institution for giving him an opportunity to launch his professional career. 

A native of Griffin, Georgia, Tuggle played football for Griffin High School, and his success on the field, despite his small size, led to him receiving two Division II scholarship offers — one of them being Valdosta State College and its barely one-year-old football team.

Tuggle entered Valdosta State on an athletic scholarship in 1983 and led the football team to its first winning season in 1986. He earned All-American honors that same year. A year later, he signed with the Atlanta Falcons, having finished his four-year college playing career with three All-Gulf South Conference honors, including Gulf South Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1986, and a school record 340 tackles. 

During his 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Tuggle recorded 1,809 tackles, including 164 assists; 21 sacks; six interceptions, which he returned for 106 yards and a touchdown; 10 forced fumbles; and 37 pass deflections. He recovered 10 fumbles, returning them for 155 yards and an NFL record five touchdowns. He appeared in Pro Bowl games five times and played in Super Bowl XXXIII. He was a three-time All-Pro honoree. Due to the impact and frequency of his tackles, he quickly became known as “The Hammer.”  

Tuggle was inducted into the VSU Hall of Fame in 1997. Ten years later he was inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame. His Valdosta State No. 88 and Atlanta Falcons No. 58 have both been retired. In recognition of his achievements and his ongoing support of the university, VSU dubbed its Athletic Field House the Jessie Tuggle Strength and Fitness Complex upon its opening in 2009. ESPN recently named him the best undrafted NFL player in Atlanta Falcons history.

Tuggle is married to DuJuan Tuggle and has three adult children. His oldest son, Justin, plays defensive end for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League, and his other son, Grady, plays defensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons. His daughter, Jessica, graduated in 2014 from VSU, where she played with the Lady Blazer tennis team and was named homecoming queen her senior year.       

More than 1,300, undergraduate and graduate students will be recognized during Valdosta State University’s 226th commencement ceremonies on Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8.

The schedule of events is as follows:

College of Nursing and Health Sciences Convocation

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences Convocation will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, in the University Center Magnolia Room. Dr. Sheri Noviello, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, will lead the festivities, recognizing all the candidates for the Associate of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training, Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and Master of Science in Nursing. The nursing students will be pinned, and the master’s level students will be hooded.

Graduate School Commencement Ceremony

The Graduate School Commencement Ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7 in the P.E. Complex. Graduates will line up at 3:30 p.m. on the second floor of the facility. Guests unable to attend may view the ceremony live at

Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Commissioning Ceremony

The Air Force ROTC Detachment 172 will conduct a commissioning ceremony at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, in the Student Union Ballroom.

Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

The Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, on the Front Lawn. Graduates will line up at 4 p.m. at Nevins Hall and the Hugh C. Bailey Science Center. President’s Award for Academic Excellence recipients, honor graduates, and commissioned Air Force ROTC cadets will be recognized, and every graduate in attendance will have their name called as they walk across the platform area in front of their fellow graduates, their faculty, and their family and friends. The celebration will end with a full fireworks display. Transportation will be provided from the university parking lots on Sustella Avenue and Oak Street. Students will be able to bring as many family and friends as they desire. Accessible parking and seating will be available. Guests unable to attend may view the ceremony live at

Please visit for a complete who, what, where, when guide to VSU’s 226th commencement ceremonies, including directions on where to park.