The other night I had the unique and awesome opportunity to sit down with Giants offensive tackle Justin Pugh on Thursday night of the draft. Justin was there courtesy of Conair for Men who was keeping him looking polished and professional around the draft with their new Twin-Trim Beard and Mustache trimmer.
I sat down with Justin after the Giants had selected Odell Beckham at 12 and both of us agreed it was solid choice for the organization. With new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo coming in and implementing the west-coast offense, Beckham should fit in nicely. Justin also spoke about the team’s “next man up” mentality. He believes that brining in a guy like Beckham will foster the necessary level of competition that will force Ruben Randle to step up and become a dangerous weapon in this offense. When I asked him about what other positions the Giants needed to address through the draft he mentioned that we would be looking to select and OL, TE, DL and LB. He also mentioned that he wanted another offensive lineman to take under his wing and mentor in the same way he was mentored last season. It seems as though the Giants filled out some of the more glaring needs in the second and third days of the draft taking Richburg and Bromley with our second and third picks. I also love the selection of Williams in the fourth; I think he has the potential to be the steal of the 2014 draft.
Now having the unique opportunity to ask Justin whatever I wanted, I had to find out if Eli was as big of a prankster as everyone says. And of course, right on que Justin told me someone had changed his phone to all Chinese that morning and he suspected Eli was the man responsible for it.
Then in the spirit of the draft I asked Justin what it was like going through the entire process and everything that occurred leading up to him being selected. He spoke about how it was a very exciting, emotional and humbling experience to fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NFL. Although he was not sure where he would end up, Justin said by the time draft night arrived he was certain it was between a handful of teams at the end of the first round. Justin also said being able to share this experience and the moment with this family was easily the greatest part of the draft.
I tried not to bring up last season because I knew it was a sore sport for him and Giants fans alike but I asked him where he was most comfortable playing on the offensive line; Pugh was drafted as an OT and started 16 games at RT last season because of the offensive line needs. Justin said that although he spent last season at RT, he is willing to play whatever position he is needed at and is dedicated to doing whatever is necessary to win. He has carried that sentiment this offseason and in his pre-season training taking on a leaner approach for the upcoming season and packing on 10lbs of pure muscle.
One of the bigger concerns I have as a fan going into this season is how the team is going to replace the leadership of Justin Tuck; a guy who has been the heart and soul of this defense for the last several seasons. When things start to go south, as they did for a large stretch of last season, there are certain cornerstone players that the team looks too to lead them back into the light. Justin, on the other hand, didn’t seem too concerned. While he addressed that losing Tuck is a big loss, he felt confident that the team has the players who can step up and fill that void. Citing guys like Jon Beason and Eli as two of the guys who will play an integral part leading this team next season.
Overall speaking with Justin was awesome. He was really happy to speak with a genuine fan like myself. I have been a staunch Giants fan my entire life and when I found out I was going to have this opportunity I decided to deck myself out with all my G-Men gear. So I showed up to the event wearing my NY Giants T-shirt and hat with a Super Bowl XLVI pin affixed. Unfortunately the majority of people did not share my exact sentiment on dress choose and instead chose to suit up. Justin did not pass on the opportunity to compliment and take a jab at my attire. After cracking a few more jokes and some small talk, I wished Justin the best of luck in this upcoming season and said my goodbye, and my hand is still hurting from his handshake.