The conversion is complete for Justin Pugh. Welcome to New York.
“I just don’t like Philly, to be honest,” the Giants guard said of his hometown on Wednesday. “I’m from there and every time I go back there I don’t get treated right from my hometown.”
Pugh said that includes everything from fans doing Eagles chants while he eats dinner with his mother to screaming “Go Eagles!” at him when he’s in a public bathroom.
“Down at my shore house, which is in south Jersey, it’s all Philly people,” he said. “No matter where I go when I’m down there it’s always like that.”
The funny part is that it wasn’t so long ago that Pugh would have done the same thing.
“I was that kid,” he said. “I was that 18-year-old kid who thought he was big, bad and tough, I’ll come wherever and wear my Philly jersey. Now I don’t like that kid that I was. Now that kid is booing me when I come home. But I say to those kids: ‘If you get drafted by a New York team or a Washington team or a Dallas team, you’re going to go play for that team.’ Thank God I got drafted here. This is the best organization. I’m family now, I’m part of New York City, and I love it up here.”
He’s even started rooting for other New York teams.
“I threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game and they treat me great,” he said. “I go to all the Knicks and Rangers games and they treat me like family. So I cheer for all those teams, I know guys on those teams. It becomes different.”
When the Giants drafted Pugh, Tom Coughlin knew about his background as an Eagles fan. The first thing Coughlin told him upon the selection was that he had to get rid of his Philly gear.
“I said: ‘We’re burning it tomorrow coach.’ ”
And he did. So did his family, who have all ditched the Eagles for the Giants.
His friends? That’s a different story.
“My best friend has an Eagles tattoo on his chest so there’s no converting that guy,” Pugh said. “I don’t get him tickets, though. I got him tickets one time and that was the last time I ever got him tickets.”
You can imagine why.
“I think Philly fans try to live up to that ‘We threw snowballs at Santa Claus [reputation],” Pugh said. “I think they try to live up to that. When I was 18 years old, I would say, ‘Yeah, we’re Philly fans! We’re ruthless!’ But, they’re harmless.”
The fans may be, but the Eagles themselves have been an issue for Pugh. He’s had some of his worst games in the NFL against the Eagles and he and the Giants have not beaten them since 2013, his rookie season.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still love where I’m from and the people from where I’m from,” he said. “But it’s definitely a big game for a lot of guys in this locker room and we’re looking forward to it . . . It’ll be nice to get this one and be able to show my face in my hometown when I go back to my camp this year.”