September 6, 2011

Making a mark with the family name

More news about: Emory and Henry | Mount Union
Mount Union fans might find it jarring to see a Pugh in something other than a Purple Raider uniform, but Adam Pugh chose Emory & Henry and scored three touchdowns on Saturday.
Photo by Ryan Tipps, D3sports.com 

EMORY, Va. -- Football is a family tradition for the Pughs. But what’s unusual for them is seeing one of their own wearing Emory & Henry’s blue and gold uniform.

And that’s just fine with Adam Pugh.

The running back is not just setting out to make his mark on the field; he’s also reshaping his family’s legacy.

“I wanted to make my own name and go my own route instead of being another person following the track,” Adam said.

In the late 1970s, Adam’s father, Dan, was a defender at current Division III powerhouse Mount Union. You’ll also find that Adam’s brother and a couple of cousins also wore the purple and black at Mount Union, including a Gagliardi Trophy winner.

After being recruited and accepted at the Ohio school, it seemed to be in the cards for Adam as well. But then his dad suggested he take a look at Emory & Henry, a school nestled along the Blue Ridge Mountains in far Southwest Virginia.

“I had no idea where or what kind of school it was,” Adam said.

His dad’s encouragement was linked to the fact that he and E&H coach Don Montgomery were roommates and teammates at Mount Union. Dan even helped recruit Montgomery as an undergrad, and they’ve since been longtime friends. It was clear Adam would be in good hands if he chose to play for the Wasps.

Adam said he was skeptical of that first visit. He admits that part of him dismissed the likelihood of choosing E&H over Mount.

But what he found was a school that was as strong academically as it was athletically. Despite the fact that there was already an All-America-caliber rusher in Caleb Jennings on the roster, Adam saw the possibility of playing sooner for the Wasps than he would for the Purple Raiders.

And Montgomery knew that he could recruit a Pugh. After all, he already did it a few times back when he was a defensive coordinator at Mount Union.

“If [Adam] and his dad took seven hours to come down here to take a look at our school,” Montgomery said, “I knew I had a good shot of selling our college because of its tradition, its academic reputation and its lore in football.

“And he doesn’t have to follow in anyone’s footsteps here. He can set his own track.”

Those footsteps are large, too. A cousin, another Dan, was the 2002 winner of Division III’s Gagliardi Trophy, given to a player who excels in athletics, academics and community service. He ran for 3,176 yards as a Purple Raider. Adam’s brother, Michael, was a wide receiver who graduated from Mount in 2008. Even the women in the family keep football close. A cousin, Liz, was a Mount cheerleader who went on to marry a Mount Union assistant coach, now the Wabash head coach, Erik Raeburn. 

“Coach Montgomery is just a real genuine person, and he said the right things,” Adam said. “I knew I could trust him to take care of me and give me a fair shot.”

Adam fell in love with the school and has no regrets about his decision. The 21-year-old carries a 4.0 GPA and is getting a degree in athletic training. He says that both in the classroom and on the field, his family name is incentive to do well.

“I don’t want to let anyone down,” he said.

If last Saturday was any indication, he’s living up to his name. Adam found the end zone three times in the Wasps’ 41-12 victory over Ferrum. It was the first time he got on the field since breaking his collarbone last fall and getting a medical redshirt for the season.

Adam’s family attends every E&H game, and his brother is one of his biggest supporters -- through both the successes and the setbacks.

“It means so much to be to see Adam healthy, successful and back on the field,” Michael said. “My father taught us to be the best that we can be and never take a play off because you never know when it’s your last. Adam unfortunately had a wakeup call last year when he shattered his collarbone. He had to overcome adversity and get back to the top. He’s not there yet but he will be.”

“I don’t want to let the family name down,” Adam said of those close to him. “But I know whether I do amazing things like my cousin or whether I’m just an average player, they’re still going to love me and support me. I think it’s just more of a motivational drive to not be the one in the back.”

Montgomery is optimistic that Adam will develop into a premier player. Adam is highly motivated, hard-working and intelligent, the coach said.

“He has the typical Pugh loyalty traits,” Montgomery noted. “Every since I met his dad, Dan, they define loyalty in their family. … You never met a Pugh you didn’t want on your side.”

Montgomery said that, despite the family connection, there is no favoritism on the field because any perception of such can be just as difficult on the player as it is on the coach.

Michael said that growing up, his little brother Adam was always one to fight for his spot in the pecking order. With an age difference of four years, Adam had to work hard to keep up with those older than him.

“I believe the way I’ve pushed him and how he always wanted to be better than me molded him today,” Michael said of his brother. “I want nothing but the best for him.”

Getting a leg up
Adam Pugh wasn’t the only star on the Emory & Henry squad on Saturday. Equally impressive was kicker Matt Turchin. The junior not only made both of his field goals, but his kickoffs helped pin Ferrum’s return men deep in their own territory. And two of his kickoffs landed in the end zone for touchbacks. Couple Tuchin’s skills with those of punter T.J. Frazier, who Montgomery has repeatedly praised, and the Wasps are poised to have one of the best special teams duos in the region.

ODAC notches a clean sweep
You can’t ask for more than perfection, and the ODAC delivered. The conference went 7-0 in nonconference play, outscoring opponents 257-98. Some games were strikingly lopsided, such as Hampden-Sydney’s 63-9 win over Averett or Randolph-Macon’s 43-7 victory over Methodist. Others were nail-bitingly narrow (Bridgewater needed overtime to topple St. Vincent, while Catholic with the help of a 459-yard day by quarterback Greg Cordivari rallied with a 15-point fourth quarter to beat McDaniel). And one team impressed simply by breaking old habits. Guilford put its 11-game losing streak in the rear-view mirror and beat crosstown rival Greensboro 27-7 in the Souper Bowl. The defensive-minded focus of new coach Chris Rusiewicz showed as the Quakers held the Pride scoreless through nearly 59 minutes of play. Quarterback Zac Halbert took the reins of the offense amid 298 yards passing, 187 of which went to all-conference receiver Ben King.

Not to be forgotten is defending ODAC champ Washington and Lee, who beat Franklin and Marshall despite being significantly outgained by the Diplomats. It was the first time since 2007 that W&L got the best of F&M, and it came with the help of five forced turnovers.

The opposite end of things
Where one Mid-Atlantic conference succeeds, another may lose. That was the case of both the USA South and the Centennial. Though much of the USAC’s results have been addressed, the Centennial stumbled to just a two-win outing among its nine teams. Johns Hopkins handily took down Merchant Marine, but it was Susquehanna’s 33-30 win over MAC power Wilkes that stole the conference’s limelight. The Crusaders were down 30-15 with less than 3 minutes left in the game before two Rich Palazzi touchdown passes and one two-point conversion pushed the game into overtime. Susquehanna’s Spenser Hotaling then connected for the winning score, a 14-yard field goal. All told, Palazzi had a whopping 421 yards passing on the day. Coming off a 2-8 season, the Crusaders have started 2011 in grand fashion.

Perhaps the conference’s most heartbreaking game was Muhlenberg’s 10-9 loss to Delaware Valley. The two teams went into overtime tied at 3, this despite the fact that the Aggies outgained the Mules on Saturday 322 to 129 yards. Ultimately, the game came down to a blocked kick after the first overtime touchdown. The Aggies responded with a touchdown and a PAT to seal the game. Defense dominated the day: Muhlenberg was led by All-American linebacker Pat McDonough, who had 14 tackles including a sack.

A run-pass performance
For those who remember the Shenandoah teams of just a couple of years ago, there can be no question about the difference in the kind of team that now stands before us. The Hornets bring a tactful balance to its offense, which has increasingly worked better for them than those past run-dominated years. That was demonstrated Saturday in a 49-21 win against Stevenson. At the forefront of the team was Rico Wallace, who hauled in a school-record five touchdown catches. Shenandoah took a 42-7 lead into the break and finished the day with 494 total yards of offense, almost a 50/50 split from passing and rushing. It was the first time in seven years that the Hornets won their home opener.

Contact me
I would be happy to hear from anyone who has questions or feedback regarding the Around the Mid-Atlantic column or Division III football in general. Please write to me at ryan.tipps@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter @D3MidAtlantic. I invite you to talk about players and performances on the message board’s Around the Mid-Atlantic thread. Additionally, if there is an idea you’d like to see me write about, post it there or email me. 

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Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his third season as Around the Mid-Atlantic columnist.

2007-2011 columnist: Ryan Tipps
2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman 

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