Life at the Combine with Justin Pugh

Life at the Combine with Justin Pugh

En route to a hopeful career in the NFL, Pugh speaks with CuseNation.com about what life is like inside the combine and more inside.

With the NFL Combine going on, football players from around the country are moving one step closer to the realization of their dreams of becoming professional athletes.

One of those players is Syracuse Orange alum Justin Pugh, who forewent his final season of eligibility in the hopes of elevating to the next level.

Pugh, who arrived on the opening day of the combine, Wednesday, February 20th, said, "It's going real well. Been a long two days so far. It's medical. You're in and out of the hospital. They're checking every possible injury you might've had or mentioned. So, it's a long day, but it's good we're finally done."

The offensive lineman specified that his days are anything but short at the combine. "We started out [on Thursday] at 4 AM, wrapping up now here at 11 o'clock [PM]," he shared.

While being examined, Pugh stated that he "met with all the team doctors". "We did a functional movement screening, vision test," said Pugh, and underwent "concussion tests".

"They have to poke and prod just to try to find out if there's anything wrong with you," he added.

Looking at his physical state, including his shoulder, which was surgically repaired in 2012, Pugh said, "I'm feeling good. I mean, that's what we train for. I was just doing that for six weeks in Atlanta to make sure you're ready to come here and show everyone what you got. So, I feel good now. I'm just ready to run on Saturday."

Pugh's day on Thursday switched from medical evaluations to interviews as night fell. He stated that he spoke with, "Five teams. Met with their head coaches, GMs (general managers), offensive line [coaches], and offensive coordinators...the big shots." Pugh remarked that teams are trying to "find out what kind of person you are".

As far as how he thinks his meetings went with the teams he has met so far, Pugh answered, "I think I did real well."

When asked if he was asked any questions he considered out of the ordinary, Pugh replied, "Yeah, I got one question. It was like, ‘If your house was on fire, what was the one thing you would go back and get?' Like say no families were in there. Dog wasn't in there. And then, they ask you again, so you say, I was like, ‘I would go and get a picture of my family.' And then he's like ‘Logically...the first thing you get?' I was like, ‘Oh, I'd still get the same thing.' And he was like, ‘Well, first off, why are you running into a burning building to begin with?' So, they kinda like try to like mess with you a little bit, get you going. But, it was fun. You have a good time with interviews."

"I kinda knew what to expect coming in," Pugh continued. "Playing in the Senior Bowl helped that I had to do a lot of these meetings and questions for that game. So, definitely I was prepared for this and I feel good. I feel confident."

But, Pugh did admit that one thing occurred so far that he was not anticipating. "Well one thing I didn't expect, coming into the interviews, the teams would put clips up from college, like good plays, bad plays, and actually ask you to describe 'em," Pugh remarked. "So, it was something new that you kinda just roll with the punches and go with. So, it was good [on Thursday] to do that and give the coaches an inside look of what Syracuse does."

Despite the busyness of the combine, Pugh has also found time to spend with familiar faces. When asked if anyone was at the combine besides his former Syracuse teammates that he knew, Pugh replied, "Oh yeah. There's a lot of guys I played with in the Senior Bowl that are down here now that I got close with, playing next to. So, it was great to see those guys. I'm still joking around, so we're having a good time out here."

Pugh has also kept in touch with fellow Syracuse alum that were invited to the combine as well. "I kinda gave Alec [Lemon] and Ryan [Nassib] a heads up, going into certain things," Pugh remarked. "Me and Alec both had shoulder surgery, so we both had to get the MRIs, so I kinda gave him the heads up of what he's gotta expect ‘cause he's a day behind me. So, [Friday] he'll have everyone poking and prodding his shoulder."

Looking to his third day at the NFL Combine, Pugh shared, "[Friday], we got the Wonderlic aptitude test, so another fun-filled, packed day. So, it'll be good. It'll be good to get that started." The Wonderlic aptitude test is comprised of 50 problem-solving questions. Each player has 12 minutes to complete all 50 questions.

Pugh is anxiously looking to Saturday, where the offensive lineman get on the field to show their skills. "You meet with a lot of teams," Pugh offered. "You answer a lot of the same questions, so I'm kinda looking forward to getting out there and doing some football stuff, getting to show off."

"At the end of the day, if you can't move, you can't play football," Pugh continued. "The interviews don't matter. It doesn't matter how nice of a guy you are. So, I'm excited to get out there and show my athleticism, show what I can do on the football field."

The two-time bowl victor realizes that those involved with the combine are studying every piece of him. "It's a whole 360-degree spectrum test because you got the mental aspect of it and then you got the physical side of it as well."

Pugh understands the importance of this opportunity he has in front of the NFL. "You know you're here for business, and it's worth it to stay up all those hours to make sure you do the things the right way," he expressed.

"It's a good thing, Pugh added. "It's only four days, so it won't kill nobody."

In a mock interview setting, Pugh responded to why a team should take him in the upcoming NFL draft in April as opposed to selecting any other offensive lineman. "First off, I can play all five offensive positions," Pugh expressed. "I played the left tackle in college. I'm versatile. That's something with NFL teams, you only carry seven guys. You need to have versatility."

"I can pass block really well, run block really well," Pugh added. "I showed that on my tape. Also, I'm a tough player, so I would definitely add value to your organization, so that's why you should draft me."

Before getting some much needed rest, Pugh offered something to look forward to when he returns to Syracuse, New York. "I'm actually not benching [at the NFL combine]," Pugh stated. "I'm gonna bench at my Pro Day."

Pro Day for Syracuse University is scheduled for Thursday, March 7th.

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