In the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, the New York Giants selected offensive lineman Justin Pugh out of Syracuse with the 19th overall pick.
Pugh was raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania but he claimed Philadelphia as his home. He was a rabid Philadelphia Eagles fan, and so were his family and friends. But that quickly changed once he arrived in New York City.
Giants Nation embraced Pugh and it wasn’t long before he became a fan favorite. He was engaging, did a lot of work within the community, and was a team player on the field. The Giants were forced to move him all over the offensive line and Pugh went along with it without complaint. All of that endeared him to the fanbase.
Playing for the Giants also changed Pugh’s perspective. Suddenly, his love for the Eagles had turned into hatred.
“I just don’t like Philly, to be honest,” Pugh said in 2016. “I’m from there, and every time I go back there, I just don’t get treated right from my hometown.
“I think Philly fans try to live up to that, ‘Oh, we threw snowballs at Santa Claus.’ So I think they try to live up to that. Kids when I was 18 years old, you wanted to be, ‘Oh, we’re Philly fans. We’re ruthless.’ But they’re harmless.”
Injuries ultimately limited Pugh’s Giants career and in 2018, he signed a free agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals and spent the past seven seasons there. But despite spending the same amount of time in the desert as he spent in East Rutherford, Pugh, currently a free agent coming off an ACL tear, still has nothing but love for his time with the Giants.
Imagine playing for one of their professional sports teams… it’s next level! cc @Giants https://t.co/WOhXtwGzx5
— Justin Pugh (@JustinPugh) June 30, 2023
At the age of 32, Pugh is on the downside of his career but still has some gas left in the tank. He also has a load of experience having started 119 of the 120 regular season games he’s appeared in. With a seeming need at the guard position, might the Giants seek out a reunion with Pugh?
That’s unlikely at the moment given Pugh’s ACL recovery but when he’s cleared, it may be something general manager Joe Schoen looks into. And how fitting would it be for Pugh to end his career back where it all began?
That would be next level.