Birmingham, Alabama, May 22, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --

When the University of Alabama at Birmingham sidelined its football program after the 2014 season because of a lack of funding, Jegil Dugger knew, someday, the school again would field a team. As the Blazers are set to return to the field this September, the school’s former star running back is helping carry the financial load.

Today, Dugger designs software and technology for Juke Slot, a prominent company in the automated technology industry and holds several government issued patents. Most notably, he is a leader in designing technology to improve the daily lives of the deaf and hard of hearing.

Dugger has pledged $100,000 to the UAB Football Operations Center, joining an elite group to become a major donor to the program. In doing so, he joins several significant long-time contributors working for a successful return of football to central Alabama.

The effort already has received large gifts from both local corporations and individual donors, including a $1 million donation from Jimmy Filler, and $500,000 gifts from Protective Life, Alabama Power, Medical Properties Trust and Mike Thompson of Thompson Tractor Co. Inc.

Construction on the UAB Football Operations Center, which will house office space, meeting and film rooms, athletic training facilities, locker rooms and a weight room, is scheduled to be complete on July 1, 2017. Fans can check out the progress of the Football Operations Center by visiting

The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees expedited approval of the Football Operations Center not-to-exceed $22.5 million on June 17, 2016.

Dugger ran for nearly 2,000 yards during his UAB career that spanned 1998-2001. He ranks top on the school’s all-time rushing list for yards and touchdowns and top in many other school record categories.

Dugger has deep ties to UAB. His mother was employed at the school. While attending the university, he met another student who would later become his wife. And his son – who Dugger hopes someday will attend the school and graduate himself – was born at UAB Hospital.

After graduating from Midfield High School, Dugger, nationally rated as a top 50 running back, turned down several Division I scholarships to Southeastern Conference schools – including Arkansas, South Carolina and Alabama – to be part of the UAB program. With the Blazers, he wound up being the team captain, team MVP, All-Conference USA, a candidate for the Doak Walker Award – all while helping UAB to its first Division I winning seasons in 2000 and 2001.

Dugger finished college as an NFL prospect, and ended up playing in the Canadian Football League with the Edmonton Eskimos.

“UAB has always been dear to me,” he said. “I believe the possibilities for the football program are tremendous. When I signed my letter of intent in high school to attend UAB, I made a life time commitment.”

Dugger heard rumors a couple years ago of the UAB program being eliminated, but saw it as an improbable move. Until it happened.

“I did not believe it. I felt a pain that I never would imagine,” he said. “To commit my blood, sweat and tears to a program and putting in all the hard work and effort as I did, it felt like part of me died.

“I thought that all the hard work, two-a-days, summer workouts and victories were all in vain and thrown down the drain. I considered my son growing old, and all I would be able to explain to him is what used to be, with no evidence of the past or the program. I also felt saddened for the kids that were on scholarship at the time the program shut down. Those kids made a life time commitment to UAB and I know were deeply hurt by the programs decision to end football.” 

Dugger said he didn’t believe the hiatus would last long. Too many people within the community backed the program – whether financially, packing seats on game day or donning Blazers logo wear – to have let it disappear permanently.  

Now Dugger is committed, along with scores of others, to seeing UAB re-establish a winning tradition. To do so, backers have to continue their avid support, he said.
And, of course, players and coaches have to approach the game with confidence and determination.

Dugger, for one, has lofty expectations.

“I see this program one day being able to compete for a national championship,” he said. “I believe the 7-4 season in which we beat LSU showed that this program can compete for a national championship with the right financial backing and fan support. Alumni of the football program are becoming more active and coming back. It is important for the players, coaches and everybody involved to get that winning mentality back – expect to win.” 

Steve Arel
Phone: 2055665211