Imagine a warm, sunny morning in June with barely a cloud in the sky—a perfect day for playing football. However, this particular morning wasn’t just a good day for football because of the weather conditions. Justin Pugh, an offensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals, returned to his high school, Council Rock North High in Newtown, Pennsylvania, to host a football camp for kids between the ages of eight and 14. Pugh was giving back to the community by inspiring young football players, as he has been doing for the last four years.
Pugh wasn’t always a football star. He didn’t start playing football until he was in the seventh grade. His high school, Council Rock South High, didn’t even have a football field—his team played their home games at Council Rock North. Between the late start to his young career and unorthodox playing conditions, Pugh had to work hard to achieve his goals.
“Five percent of my success is natural talent, and 95 percent is hard work,” Pugh said.
He always tried to identify certain aspects of the professional football players that he wanted to emulate. Pugh would then try to incorporate these aspects into his game to make himself a more complete player. After a successful high school football career, he committed to Syracuse University. With the Orange, Pugh was named first-team All-Big East twice and earned the title of co-captain as a senior. Yet even with all the accolades, Pugh said his favorite parts about playing at Syracuse were the people he played with.
The New York Giants selected Pugh 19th overall in the 2013 NFL draft. When asked about his favorite perk that comes with being a pro, Pugh answered without a moment’s hesitation: “My favorite perk is having the ability to give back to the community and inspire kids to chase their dreams.”
At the camp, each age group received instruction from four to five coaches. Pugh was not just there for photos and handshakes. The kids participated in several different drills, competed in a 40-yard dash elimination race called a “smokehouse,” and applied their skills in a series of 7v7 games. Pugh seemed to have a lot of fun playing with the kids. All of them were smiling, laughing, and having fun. One young participant, Cooper, said, “I like the camp because we play football and it’s really fun.”
Pugh and the other coaches said the purpose of the camp is not only to teach football, but also to teach kids how to chase dreams and live a healthy lifestyle. As Pugh told the campers, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”