OLINE: "Syracuse's Justin Pugh blazes a new trail at Senior Bowl"
Jonathan Cooper in the 1st & maybe this guy in the 2nd. Howie Long's son looks good too, but he's almost too tall to be a prototypical guard. He's built more like a tackle.
But this kid (Justin Pugh) looks like he'd be a rock solid guard for many many years to come. Smart kid too.
LINK to the article Syracuse's Justin Pugh blazes a new trail at Senior Bowlhttp://media.al.com/sports_impact/ph...5999-large.jpg Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh, right, signs an autograph after a Senior Bowl practice this week. (Bill Starlingfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh is the only player in Senior Bowl practices this week who could have come back for another year of college. Instead, he's here in Mobile looking to prove he's ready for the NFL.
Pugh and Alabama's D.J. Fluker became the first non-seniors invited to the Senior Bowl this year under executive director Phil Savage's plan to include fourth-year juniors who have already graduated and declared for the draft. Fluker, who was in town Sunday and Monday for interviews and the weigh-in, was unable to participate in practices or the game due to a calf injury, but Pugh has been an active member of the North squad all week and he said he's grateful for the opportunity.
"I didn't think I'd have any opportunity to play in this game. Last year, my buddy was in the same situation -- (current New England Patriots defensive lineman) Chandler Jones -- he came out early and he wasn't able to play. So I texted him: 'I'm in the Senior Bowl.' And he was like, 'Ah, you lucky son of a gun.'
"So I'm honored. This is a great thing for the NFL and the Senior Bowl, rewarding guys like me that worked hard in college, made sure they got their degree. We're student-athletes for a reason, so make sure you get the degree. That's something no one can take away from you."
For Pugh, the son of a teacher, leaving college without a degree was not an option. So he said he took five classes last summer in order to graduate and give himself the option of leaving Syracuse early.
"My Mom told me if I ever wanted to play in the NFL, I had to get my degree first. She's a teacher, so she's real big on education. So before the season even started she was like, 'You'd better make sure you take enough classes so you can graduate or else you're not going anywhere.'"
Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said Wednesday that the move to include fourth-year graduated juniors has been well received.
"I think any time you get more talent in here, it's important," NFL analyst Mike Mayock said early this week. "And I like the caveat that they're fourth-year juniors who have already graduated."
Savage added that Pugh, who is part of the North squad, has "represented himself well" in workouts this week. "He's shown tackle-guard versatility. He's a smart player," Savage said. "There's no doubt that he'll be more prepared for the combine and the rest of his pre-draft scenario than if he had not been here."
That was the goal, Pugh said -- that and proving that he belongs.
"I want people to say I compete and I'm a tough kid," he said. "That's something I take pride in, going out here and being physical and being a smart player. I want them to know I can be able to pick up the playbook and run with it."