Once a diehard Eagles fan, Justin Pugh now has disdain for the city he calls home. And there’s good reason for his change of heart.
As Pugh tells it, the Giants offensive lineman was once at a charity event near Philadelphia benefitting the Autism Cares Foundation. Pugh was auctioning off one his Big Blue jerseys, hoping to make some money for a good cause. Instead, he garnered an unexpected reaction.
“I had this chick booing me, coming up to the table saying, ‘You suck!’ And I’m like, ‘We’re at a charity event!'” Pugh told the Daily News on Wednesday. “They’re so ruthless down there.”
That’s just one example of the backlash Pugh has dealt with in Philly since the Giants drafted him in the first round of 2013 draft out of Syracuse. Pugh was born and raised in Newtown, Pennsylvania and attended high school at Council Rock South, about 30 miles north of Philadelphia.
“I just don’t like Philly, to be honest,” Pugh said. “Every time I go back there, I don’t get treated right.”
Pugh said he’ll go out dinner with his mother when he’s back in Pennsylvania, only to hear Eagles chants directed at him from fans in the restaurant. He experiences similarly obnoxious behavior from Eagles fans when he’s at his beach house in Sea Isle City, New Jersey.
But Pugh knows he was once in their shoes.
“I was that kid. I can say that personally because I was that 18-year-old kid that thought he was big, bad, tough, I’ll come wherever wearing my Philly jersey,” Pugh said with a chuckle. “And now I don’t like that kid that I was. Now that kid’s booing me when I come home.”
Pugh believes the Philly-fan persona is an act.
“They try to live up to that, and kids, like when I was 18 years old, you wanted to be like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re Philly fans. We’re ruthless,'” Pugh said. “But they’re harmless.”
Pugh traces the origins of his Philly flip-flop to his first game at Lincoln Financial Field as a rookie in 2014. Pugh started at right tackle and had what he called “the worst game of my career.” Pugh says he let up five sacks, and the Giants lost, 27-0, in primetime on Sunday Night Football.
“I’m in my hometown. I was all jacked up. And that was something that was embarrassing to me,” Push told the News of the performance. “I was questioning if I could even play in the NFL after that. Like, can I even play at this level? So that was probably one of the worst times in my career. And it was handed to me by the team I grew up watching. So that’s probably part of the reason why I dislike them even more.”
Over the past three seasons, Eli Manning and Big Blue have won just one of six contests against Philly.
Pugh said he was able to grow from the experience, however.
“That helped me become more mature, helped me realize this game is very humbling,” he said. “I learned how much emotion went into this game and how to be a pro and how to bounce back after something like that.”
Pugh believes his relationship with Philly would be less tenuous if they Giants were more successful against the Eagles.
Over the past three seasons, Big Blue has won just one of six contests against Philly. And the Eagles have swept both games in each of the past two years.
The Giants haven’t beaten the Eagles at home since 2012.
“If we were beating them every time, I wouldn’t even care. I’d be like, ‘All right, whatever,'” Pugh said. “But they’ve beaten us – and not just beaten us, embarrassed us the past two years. So obviously I have a chip on my shoulder. I’ve got to go home every time and I’ve got to hear about it.”
Pugh says his direct family members no longer root for the Eagles. They’ve changed allegiances along with him.
His best friend from home coaches football at SMU and has an Eagles tattoo on his chest.
“There’s no real converting that guy,” he said.
It’s a good thing Pugh didn’t get an Eagles tattoo of his own when he had the chance.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News