Justin Pugh Joins The Big Blue Crew:
Former Syracuse lineman Justin Pugh now tackling the NFL
By Ashley Iaconetti EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ- The New York Giants number one draft pick Justin Pugh is trying to find a good pizza and hoagie place in northern New Jersey. After all, he does need to keep his lineman’s figure. I assure the 6-foot-4-inch, 307-pound Philadelphia native that he won’t find trouble finding a good variety of his favorite foods in the area…and around here, we call them subs. I have family here so I know.
I suggest he try Kinchley’s in Ramsey, NJ for some crispy, thin crust pizza. It’s just 20 minutes away from the Giants’ Timex Performance Center where we met on Friday afternoon. He seems genuinely interested, even more so when he finds out they will top it with buffalo chicken for him.
Pugh’s a friendly, personable 22-year-old. I can tell he’s already comfortable and well-versed in dealing with the media, especially for a lineman, whose lockers are not normally bombarded with many cameras and microphones. However, I know the Giants Vice President of Communications Peter John-Baptiste, who is hovering next to my camera during the entire thirty minute interview, is there to make sure Pugh stays in line with Coach Tom Coughlin’s theory to “keep it short, to the point and very professional” with reporters.
Part of being a rookie on Big Blue is remembering you’re on “Coughlin Time.” According to Coach Coughlin’s watch, being five minutes early to a team meeting actually means you’re late. Giants great Michael Strahan lost thousands of dollars because of that rule. It’s just one of the many adjustments Pugh will have to make for a smooth transition into the NFL.
Some things never change
Luckily, he’s had a friend by his side who is also playing behind his offensive line. Former Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib was drafted by the Giants in the fourth round in April. Most of the reps Pugh has taken so far in organized team activities have been with Nassib under center, not Eli Manning.
“I’m in the huddle and I see him,” Pugh said with a smile. “I can’t get rid of him and he can’t get rid of me.”
The two SU alums are currently living next-door to each other in a hotel as they look for more permanent housing. After practice they review their playbooks together just as they would at Syracuse.
“We have these quizzes and study guides,” Pugh said. “I thought I’d be done with homework once I left college, but we have homework every night.”
Something else that hasn’t changed is his close proximity to home. It’s less than a two-hour drive from Met Life Stadium to his house in Holland, Pennsylvania.
“My mom was the biggest fan of me getting drafted by New York,” Pugh said. “She wanted me to stay close. She can come up to all of my games. I can go home and see family if I need to. Going to Syracuse, New York’s college team, and now to be playing for one of New York’s biggest sports teams…I really lucked out.”
The rookie life
One of the new additions in Pugh’s life can be found in his wallet. It’s a credit card. Veteran Giants guard Chris Snee suggested he get one before getting started at the Giants.
“With the rookies, it’s the basic stuff,” Pugh said. “One day we’ll have to go out and get doughnuts, take the guys out to dinner, and clean-up the room. It’s part of being a rookie.”
The Giants began mini-camp Monday and Pugh expects the rookie hazing to begin now.
“You’ve just got to take it all with a grain of salt,” Pugh tells me. ”It’s all in good fun. You can’t take it personally because you know when you get out on the field there’s no hierarchy.”