- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They would drive down Interstate 476 in a Ford Explorer, Bruce Springsteen on the radio, trying to pass the four hours between Syracuse and the King of Prussia Mall in Eastern Pennsylvania as painlessly as possible. Justin Pugh, the Giants' first-round draft pick, supposes he and Ryan Nassib must have passed 180 hours in the Explorer as they drove home each summer weekend before football season started.
“When ‘Jungleland’ came on, that’s when we stared going a little bit faster,” Pugh said.
“We were big Philly fans,” Nassib said. “We’d talk about football for two hours. We’d talk about games, reminisce about old games. When you’re driving, you never know what’s going to come up.”
So they were Philly fans, but they will be changing their allegiance now that both have been drafted by the Giants. The moment that the offensive tackle realized he would keep protecting his road trip buddy in the pros, Pugh was pretty excited, and so was Nassib.
“We were ecstatic,” Nassib said. “We were pumped. We were like ‘How did this happen?’”
“I just got goose bumps,” Pugh said. “Because I said once I got drafted that whoever ends up with Ryan is going to be very, very lucky. And it just so happened that we ended up with him. He’s a great quarterback.”
Apparently, their new coach agrees. After the first of two Saturday practices, coach Tom Coughlin addressed reporters and was asked which of the rookies was starting to impress him.
“I think one of the things that continues to grow on you,” Coughlin said, “is the way the quarterback has responded to a new system and first time ever and showing some ability to lead in the huddle. And the huddle pays attention to him, and the offensive line seems to have responded pretty well to him, and he’s throwing the ball on occasion well.”
Nassib, who was projected all over the board but usually higher than the fourth round, said what happened on draft night has had an effect on him.
“It’s been big motivation, for sure,” he said. “It’s something that you really don’t talk about; you kind of keep it in. I mean, you don’t talk about it, but you play about it.”
He should get time to develop behind entrenched starter Eli Manning. That’s something Pugh may have a harder time adjusting to than Nassib.
“It’ll be weird having another quarterback in the huddle without Ryan,” Pugh said, “because, I mean, it just feels so normal. I come to the quarterback, I see Ryan Nassib. That’s something I’ve just learned to expect.”
Maybe Pugh could fast-track his relationship with Manning, if Manning just has a few hours to drive to Syracuse.