Syracuse Football Alumni In The NFL Part 2: Justin Pugh
This will be a series discussing former Syracuse players in the National Football League. The second part of this series continues with another player from the New York Giants.
The Syracuse football team has not had a lot to cheer for the past couple of seasons and this time of year is the down period for college football fans that have to wait three months until the Spring Game. Let’s continue our walk down memory lane together and discuss the former Orange players who are still lacing up on Sundays.
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Another of Doug Marrone’s disciples, Pugh attended Syracuse University, where he played for the Syracuse Orange football team from 2009 to 2012.
He was the anchor of the offense line that protected Ryan Nassib. He started 34 games in his career, and earned All-Big East Conference honors in three consecutive seasons; second team as a sophomore, and first team as a junior and senior.
Justin opted to enter the the 2013 NFL Draft after his junior season. He had a difficult hurdle to overcome prior to announcing entry in the draft. He needed his Mom’s clearance.
“I kind of had set it up so I could graduate,” Pugh said on Sunday night at a press conference in Mobile, Alabama. “While I knew going into the year I wanted to graduate to give me the option to go either way. My mom being a teacher, she was real big on if I didn’t get my degree, I wasn’t going to be able to come out.”
Pugh earned a Finance degree, so his mother, Carolyn, who is a grade teacher near Pittsburgh,
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gave him the green light to skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft. While he already had graduated, Pugh was cleared by the National Football League to compete in the 2013 Senior Bowl.
Justin Pugh was the first non-Senior invited to play in the Senior Bowl. This break-through took the approval by the NFL league office and the fulfillment of three requirements set forth by the Senior Bowl. For the Orange offensive tackle to be eligible for consideration he had to spend four seasons on campus, graduate by Dec. 31 and have approval of Doug Marrone.
Justin was selected by the New York Giants with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
His playing career has contained flashes of brilliance that the Orange faithful were used to seeing in the Dome; in 2013 he started all 16 games and only allowed 3 sacks.
Subsequent years have been marred by injuries missing two games in 2014 struggling to stay on the field. He has missed nine games over his first four years. In 2015 he was moved to left guard but has enough football IQ and an excellent skill set to support the Giants at any position on the line that he has been called on to fill on multiple occasions due to injuries on the offensive line.
While on April 26, 2016, the Giants picked up the fifth-year option on Pugh’s contract. Let’s hope the 2017 campaign he’ll return to form, stay healthy and earn a trip to the Pro Bowl.