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The Irrelevant Giant: The story of John Tuggle

The Giants enter the final day of the 2020 NFL Draft with seven picks remaining. Through the first two days of the draft, all of the buzz has surrounded the team's first few selections. But today, a lot of the talk revolves around the team's final choice.

The Giants currently own the last pick of the draft. While this selection will officially go down as the 255th pick, the player taken here will forever be known as the 2020 NFL Draft's "Mr. Irrelevant".

Over the last 50 years, the NFL has seen a handful of notable players selected with the final pick of the draft.

But when it comes to Mr. Irrelevant and the New York Giants, there is one name that jumps to the forefront of every Giants fan's mind: John Tuggle.

Tuggle was anything but irrelevant to legendary coach Bill Parcells.

As the last pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, the running back out of California was that year's Mr. Irrelevant. He began his NFL journey alongside Parcells, who had just taken over as head coach of the Giants. Tuggle played only one year with the Giants, but he certainly left his mark on the field as he was named the Giants' Special Teams Player of the Year that season.

Documented in ESPN's 30 for 30 short film "The Irrelevant Giant," the player and coach embarked on something much greater when Tuggle was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that would eventually take his life in August of 1986. He was 25 years old.

Tuggle left a lasting impression on Parcells, as the Giants went on to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history that season. The players proudly wore the number 38 on their helmets along the way, including the championship game in Pasadena, to honor their fallen teammate.

"For all the players that I've ever coached in my lifetime, there have been a few – John being among them – that had some attributes that you couldn't see," recalled Parcells in the documentary. "You had to gain an understanding of this guy's determination, his will, those kinds of things. Just walking around, you don't gain an appreciation for anything like that. It has to be gained under duress, during times of pain, during times where we all have to go to those dark places and respond."


Parcells vividly remembers his final encounter with Tuggle during the summer of 1986. Sitting in his office, Parcells' secretary announced that he had a visitor. In comes Tuggle, dressed in a black suit with his shoes shined, holding a brown paper bag. Tuggle sat down in front of him, placed the paper bag on Parcells' desk and said, "Coach, let's have a drink." He opened up a bottle of champagne and told Parcells, "I don't think I'm going to be seeing you. I just want to thank you for everything."

"Not many people know about this kid. He was brave," Parcells says in the documentary. "He had those attributes you couldn't see. He was an inspiration of sorts to me because you always wonder if you could do what he did, if you could endure and still have that 'Let's have a drink' (mentality). You wonder. I don't know the answer whether I could or not. I don't know, but he inspired me.

"I can still see his eyes, you know what I mean? It's like it was yesterday. Those last few minutes I spent with him are really some of the most powerful periods in my life. They really are."

Regardless of who is selected with the 255th pick Saturday, he will have some big shoes to fill because for the New York Giants, there will forever be one man known as "The Irrelevant Giant."

Over the years, the NFL has seen several other success stories from players taken with the final pick of the draft.

New England Patriots special teamer Marty Moore, taken 222nd overall in 1994, became the first Mr. irrelevant to suit up for a Super Bowl when he took part in Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers. Safety Michael Green, the final pick in the 2000 draft, played in the NFL for eight years and recorded two seasons with over 100 tackles. More recently, the Kansas City Chiefs selected kicker Ryan Succop with the 256th pick in 2009, and he went on to tie the NFL record for the highest field goal percentage by a rookie in a season at 86.2%.

The Giants have history other than Tuggle with Mr. Irrelevant. While he wasn't drafted by the franchise, fullback Jim Finn was selected with the final pick in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Finn joined the Giants in 2003 and spent five seasons with the franchise. The New Jersey native was a member of the Super Bowl XLII-winning team, although he missed the entire 2007 season due to injury.

Given the current circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic, the pre-draft process for every team across the league has been affected. Teams have been unable to follow their normal pre-draft procedures involving meetings with prospects, pro days and in-person visits, which could have an effect on players signing as undrafted free agents.

With all of the uncertainty surrounding the draft process, this year's Mr. Irrelevant could end up being far from irrelevant.


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