Justin Pugh Interview
Sr / Syracuse / OT

Updated - 3-5-13

By: Alex Khvatov


Alex Khvatov:  What are your exact measurements (height, weight and forty time)?

Justin Pugh:  I am 6’5, 306 pounds right now and I run around a 5.0 forty. 


Alex Khvatov:  What schools recruited you when you were coming out of high school?

Justin Pugh:  Syracuse was about it.  It was the only Division I school that I had an offer from. 


Alex Khvatov:  Are you happy with the decision that you made by coming to Syracuse? 

Justin Pugh:  It was the best decision that I ever made.  I had the two best OL coaches in the country.  Coach Marrone came from the Saints where he was an OL coach.  It was a blessing.  I had the best coaching.  I ended up playing right away.  I redshirted, but then I played all three seasons.  So it was a great place.  I wouldn’t change anything about it. 


Alex Khvatov:  Tell me about your junior season.  

Justin Pugh:  It was tough missing the first four games of the season.  I had to watch.  We went 1-3 to open the season.  But it made it more gratifying once I got out there.  It made me appreciate how much I needed this game.  Once I got back, we wound up going 7-2.  We went to the Pinstripe Bowl and got the big win against West Virginia.  It was awesome.


Alex Khvatov:  Talk about the Bowl Game in more detail.

Justin Pugh:  We knew that we would have to put up points against West Virginia.  But we always have faith in our defense.  Every year, our defense has shut down West Virginia.  I never lost to them personally.  I never saw them have a good offensive performance against our defense.  I saw what they did to teams throughout the year, but I always have faith in our defense.  We were just going to go in there and do our job.  We ended up rushing for over 500 yards.  It worked out well for us getting that big win. 


Alex Khvatov:  What are your strengths?

Justin Pugh:  I am a very good pass protector.  Run blocking is probably my favorite thing to do as an offensive lineman.  Once I get bigger and stronger, I know that I will become a better run blocker.  I can use my athleticism in the zone blocking scheme.  I am really good at getting out in space and getting to the second level.  My leadership qualities are really good.  I was named captain at Syracuse by my teammates.  It is my biggest accomplishment at Syracuse. 


Alex Khvatov:   What areas of your game do you need to improve upon?

Justin Pugh:  I don’t think that I have any glaring weaknesses in my game.  But I have to work on my technique and get better at it.  In the NFL, guys are bigger, stronger and faster than I faced in college.  So I need to get that technique down.    


Alex Khvatov:  Why did you decide to leave Syracuse after your junior season?

Justin Pugh:  There were four main reasons why I decided to leave.  I have been there for four seasons.  I redshirted my first year, so I am a redshirt junior.  I got three years of football.  I got my degree which is the most important thing.  My mom told me that I wasn’t allowed to come out and declare for the draft unless I had my degree.  I think that I played really well the past three years.  I was an All-Conference player all three years.  After the injury, I played really well my junior year.  The season ended great.  We went 7-2 to end the season.  It was my dream to go to the NFL.  Everything came together at the right time.  After I declared, Coach Marrone left for the Bills.  He took the whole offensive staff to Buffalo.  So it just worked out. 


Alex Khvatov:  You were selected to play at the Senior Bowl as a redshirt junior.  This was groundbreaking for the Senior Bowl, how honored were you to participate in this event? 

Justin Pugh:  It was an honor.  I am thankful that we were able to participate.  We were rewarded for finishing school early.  We put our education first.  D.J. Fluker left after the first day because he had an injury.  I was the only one left practicing.  Hopefully, it will open the door for other guys like me in the future. 


Alex Khvatov:  Describe your Senior Bowl experience to us.

Justin Pugh:  It was a lot to take in at first.  You are going every day from 7 o’clock in the morning to 11 o’clock at night.  When you are not playing, you are doing interviews and different events.  It was a good experience getting used to that and being around the NFL guys.  It was great to get exposed to NFL coaching.  Raiders’ coaching staff was great.  All-Star games are a bit unrealistic because offensive playcalling is so limited.  Defense knows what’s coming.  The game isn’t as important as the practices.  I think that I had a really good week of practice.  I was able to get some guard work in and show my versatility.  It was a great week for me.


Alex Khvatov:  Who is the toughest player that you faced during the Senior Bowl practices?

Justin Pugh:  On my team, Datone Jones from UCLA was a really good player.  When I was playing guard, I went up against Brandon Williams.  I think that he is a Division II player.  He is a good player.  He is a very strong kid.  Sylvester Williams is a really good player.  But I liked what Datone Jones brought to the table.  He had a good combination of power and speed. 


Alex Khvatov:  Did you bond with any of the players during the week?

Justin Pugh:  At first, I had a room to myself.  Then my teammate Alec Lemon ended up coming.  He was a late addition to the roster.  He ended up as my roommate.  I got along really well with the other offensive linemen.  Kyle Long and Brian Winters were a couple of guys that I bonded with.                   


Alex Khvatov:  Do you see yourself playing at tackle or guard at the next level?

Justin Pugh:  I played left tackle during the whole game at the Senior Bowl.  I just got a couple of snaps at guard.  People keep saying that my arms are too short to play tackle.  At the end of the day, football is football.  People can write about it and analyze it all they want.  At the end of the day, 31 and a half inch arms aren’t going to be the difference between me being a tackle and a guard.  I have been playing tackle for the last three years in the Big East.  I have played against first round picks.  I can definitely play tackle in the NFL.  NFL teams will see that with my athleticism and my IQ.  The more versatile that I am, the more valuable I become on draft day.


Alex Khvatov:  What is the highlight of your football career up to this point?

Justin Pugh:  Going to two bowl games in three years is my biggest accomplishment that I have on the field.  We set a foundation for the Syracuse football program.  We are not one of the worst programs anymore.  You can’t neglect Syracuse football anymore.  Off-the-field, my highlight was getting my degree.


Alex Khvatov:  The Scouting Combine is a couple of days away, what are you going though right now preparing for this once in a lifetime event? 

Justin Pugh:  Going into it, you know that this is your biggest interview of your life.  It can get a little nerve wracking, but then I remind myself that this is football.  This is what I love to do.  This is something that I have been doing my whole life.  I have been getting ready for this interview since I started playing this sport.  I want to show them what type of player that I am and what type of athleticism that I have.  The biggest thing is just showing what type of kid that I am.  I want to show them that I can add value to their team and add value to their city.  You just need to find one of those teams to like you and it is a wrap. 


Alex Khvatov:  What separates you from all of the other players at your position?

Justin Pugh:  I think that there a number of good tackles in the draft.  They all bring something to the table.  I just think the way that I fit into certain schemes.  My pass protection is very good.  I can pass protect with the best of them.  The league is turning into a passing league.  You have to be able to get downfield and block with all of those running QB’s.  I do a really good job at getting to the second level.  I don’t think that anyone brings the intangibles which I bring to the table.  I bring the leadership qualities on and off-the-field.  Teams will see that in Indy. 


Alex Khvatov:  Describe your teammate QB Ryan Nassib.

Justin Pugh:  Ryan and I are both from Philadelphia.  We actually would drive home together in the summer.  We spent a lot of time together.  Ryan is a great guy.  He became the vocal leader of our team this past season.  It was the biggest change that he made in his game.  His play speaks for itself.  He can make any throw on the field.  Just give him a little time and he can make any offensive lineman look good.  He is a very smart guy.  He has a degree in finance and in accounting.  He started his master’s degree while training.  He is definitely the type of guy that works at it.  He doesn’t want the spotlight.  He would rather just go out there and do his job.  He is not a prima donna.  He is a blue collar guy.  He will fit in great wherever he goes. 


Alex Khvatov:  Where are you training right now for the NFL Draft?

Justin Pugh:  I am down here in Atlanta at CES.  It is Competitive Edge Sports with Chip Smith.  It is a really good place to train.  If you don’t want to work hard and just go to one of those resort types of training facilities where you get massages and go to the beach all day, then this isn’t the place for you.  We come in every day and we work hard.  I think that I have gotten a lot better here. 


Alex Khvatov:  What is your favorite NFL team?

Justin Pugh:  I am an Eagles fan.  I grew up in Philadelphia. 


Alex Khvatov:  Were you sad to see Andy Reid being let go?

Justin Pugh:  Yeah, I grew up watching Andy Reid.  It is all I knew.  Andy Reid and the Eagles were synonymous.  It was also a big loss to see MacNabb leave.  He was a Syracuse guy.  It was tough to see those guys leave after you have rooted for them for so long.  But Philadelphia needed some fresh blood.  Andy Reid is a great coach and that is why you saw him get hired right away because he knows what he is doing.  But it is time for them to go and start over again.   


Alex Khvatov:  Are you excited about the Chip Kelly era?

Justin Pugh:  Yeah, definitely.  He did great things at Oregon.  The fans should be excited about it.  It is a great scheme.  He needs guys like me with that no-huddle offense.  He runs an up-tempo offense.  I think that I would be a great fit in that offense. 


Alex Khvatov:  Who is your favorite NFL player?

Justin Pugh:  Right now, I haven’t been able to watch as much football as I used to.  I work with Jon Stinchcomb.  He was a tackle for the Saints.  He has been to the Pro Bowl and he has won a Super Bowl.  I like the way he plays.  He is similar to me.  He has been coaching me here in Atlanta.  I have definitely been getting better. 


Alex Khvatov:  What did you enjoy the most about playing college football?

Justin Pugh:  Being in college, it is a different experience.  You are still a student and you still get to have fun.  You are around guys who are the same age as you.  I miss it.  I am out here working out by myself.  You are really on your own for the first time.  I miss being around my teammates all the time.  But it would be great to see all of those guys once my pro day comes up. 


Alex Khvatov:  What does it take to be a leader?

Justin Pugh:  I am more of a lead by example type of guy.  When you first get to college or you are a rookie in the NFL, you want to keep your head down and learn from the older guys.  You just want to take notes and learn how they get respect.  Then you have to go out there and be a good player.  You have to go out there and work hard.  Then with time, you can become more vocal.  But you slowly work your way to being a leader. 


Alex Khvatov:  Who will emerge as the next great player at Syracuse?

Justin Pugh:  We have some young offensive linemen that started for the first time last year.  One kid is Sean Hickey.  He played LT when I was out.  He is going to be the next great Syracuse OL.  He has a big body with long arms.  He is going to be a really good player.  Our RB Jerome Smith had over 1,200 yards last year.  He is also a really good player.  WR Jarrod West is another player to keep an eye on.  I think that QB Charley Loeb will surprise everyone next year.  He was my roommate.  He is a 6’4, lefty QB who can make every throw.  He is a hard worker.  He is one of the most dedicated guys that I have ever met.  He actually won a bunch of competitions at the Manning Camp this year against some of the top guys in this year’s draft class.  He was behind Ryan Nassib.  He should do a really good job next year.    


Alex Khvatov:  Who is the toughest guy that you have faced during your career?

Justin Pugh:  Chandler Jones.  He was my teammate for three seasons.  He is with the Patriots now.  We made each other a lot better.  It is good to go against future NFL players in practice every day.  It definitely helps you out a lot. 


Alex Khvatov:  What do you plan to do with your life after your football career is over?

Justin Pugh:  I have a finance degree.  So I thought that I want to get into financial advising.  But now I think that I want to get into broadcasting after I am done playing.  I can talk fairly well.  I have a good time when I do my interviews.  It would be something cool to get into.  I do have that football background.  Plus I am very well spoken.  It would be a good fit for me. 


Alex Khvatov:  What are your hobbies?

Justin Pugh:  I like to hang out with my buddies.  I have seven best friends back home that I grew up with.  I know them since elementary school.  One of my buddies plays basketball at Drexel, so I am able to see some of his games.  I have two nephews and a niece back home that I like to hang out with.  I like to play video games.  I am a very competitive guy.  We have a Madden league going on.  We have four guys in one apartment and we like to play.  I am also a big beach guy.  I like to boogie board. 


Alex Khvatov:  At this point, is the NFL a dream or a reality? 

Justin Pugh:  It is still a dream.  I walked into my training facility the other day and I saw a guy like Colin Kaepernick working out at the same facility.  He is a normal guy.  You put a guy like that on a pedestal your whole life, but you realize that you are getting closer to becoming just like him.  It is exciting.  But until I get to hear my name called, you never know what could happen.  Once my name gets called on TV and I see it go on the screen, then it will become a reality. 

Alex Khvatov:  Finish the sentence, Justin Pugh is….  

Justin Pugh:  A tough, hard-working player who plays the game the right way. 


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