Cue Benny Hill music.
Yesterday the 19th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, New York Giants OL Justin Pugh, wrapped up a day of promoting Conair for Men’s new 2-Blade All-In-One Trimmer getting cleaned up in the trendy Meatpacking District by celebrity groomer Anna Bernabe.
Such are the perks playing in the Big Apple.
I caught up with the Bucks County, PA-native to talk about being a Giant who grew up in Eagles country, and his thoughts on pressing issues facing his sport such as the Miami bullying saga and the push to pay college athletes.
Having now lived on both sides of the NFC rivalry, as a fan and now as a player, being passed up by his hometown team for a player at his same position (Lane Johnson) wasn’t lost Pugh. I’m not saying it put a chip on his shoulder, but he certainly didn’t hold back praise for the success of the Giants, and perhaps (intentionally or not) the lack thereof for the Eagles.
“I know what goes into [the Eagles-Giants rivalry], but the Eagles didn’t draft me. The Eagles didn’t give me my opportunity in the NFL. They drafted another guy at my position. They could have drafted me, but didn’t,” Pugh told me. “Actually, I am very thankful for who I ended up with – a first class organization in the New York Giants, an organization who has won in the past, winning two Super Bowls in five years. We have great players on the offensive line who have played a while. I think it’s the perfect fit.”
It’s not just the team that has struck Pugh, but the magnificence of playing in New York. “It’s the best city in the world. It’s the capital of the earth. It’s great to play here. When things aren’t going well, you’re 0-6 in the beginning, you start to feel it. But when you win three games in a row, things start to turn around. And if you win in this city, the guys have told me, there’s nothing like it.”
Fresh off of a standout career at Syracuse, Pugh left no doubt about his feelings regarding the ongoing debate about compensating collegiate athletes:
“I think student athletes should get paid, football players should get paid. These programs are making a lot of money off of guys…there’s no reason why these schools couldn’t provide to an extent. I know they are getting a free education, but they’re up there all the time. Regular students may say they are up there doing the same things, but the time that’s consumed playing athletics and going to college is crazy. When I was up there, you’re up there in the summers, you really have no social life. So to give these kids money so they can eat and have some extra food in their house? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
His thoughts on a more prevalent issue at the moment, the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying case that is polarizing players and pundits alike, were a little less cut-and-dry. One thing is for certain is that rookies in the Giants organization, while hazed, are protected by a veteran group of players who recognize and enforce the distinction between good-natured fun and abuse.
“I think there’s a line. There’s a very blurred line that exists. There’re things that you can do to break a rookie into the NFL: carrying helmets, decorating rooms, you pick up a tab – not a $30,000 tab, that’s crossing over that line. There’s a right of passage where rookies come in, that’s part of the game, and everyone’s done it, but when they take it to that next level, it becomes that grey area.
“I think in the next few weeks when we see this thing unfold, we’re going to see what happened in Miami, but the guys in my locker – the Eli Mannings, the Justin Tucks, Dave Diehl, Chris Snee – those guys police our locker room and don’t let those things happen and people go over that line.”
It’s one thing to heap praise on teammates. I pressed him for which of his teammates are the most unkempt in the locker and most in need of a Conair for Men grooming. He admitted that, only because Tyler Sash wasn’t on the roster any longer, Brandon Mosley and Brandon Myers could use some cleaning up.
Pugh tells me he got involved with Conair because he knew a guy. Literally. “It’s something got involved with through my best friend Corey, who happens to work for Conair, and said ‘Yo, you got a good beard, how about you try this new product.’ So it was actually a perfect match.”