SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Having completed his undergraduate degree, Syracuse University senior offensive tackle Justin Pugh announced on Thursday he will forego his final year of collegiate eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL Draft.
Here is the full press release from the SU Athletics Department:
Syracuse football offensive tackle Justin Pugh will forgo his final season of eligibility with the Orange and enter the 2013 NFL Draft, he announced today. A 2011 and 2012 All-BIG EAST First Team selection, Pugh started every game he played at Syracuse. The team co-captain was also honored as an 2012 ECAC Division I Football All-Star and 2012 ESPN.com All-BIG EAST Team selection. Pugh has completed his degree requirements in finance.
"Coach Marrone and Coach Adkins have been great throughout my career, including through this process," Pugh said. "I wanted to be honest with everyone as I made this decision and they were the same with me. My Syracuse career was the best four years of my life. My teammates, coaches, the staff and the fans have been great. I would not change anything about my decision to attend Syracuse or my career. I am so happy I came to Syracuse University. I will always be active in the Orange football program and the Syracuse community. I love the Orange. Go 'Cuse."
After missing the first four games of the 2012 season with an injury, Pugh returned to the Syracuse lineup to anchor an offensive line that as has paved the way for 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith. In addition, the Orange averaged 187.0 yards per game on the ground, the program's most effective ground attack since 2004. Pugh and the rest of the SU front five allowed just 16 sacks this season.
"Justin is a big part of this program turning the corner," Marrone said. "He came in with us four years ago and gave us everything he had. We are proud of him for earning his degree and for what he has accomplished on the field as a leader of this team. He has earned it. I believe he will be very successful at the next level and in everything he does outside of football. Justin will always be part of the Orange football family."
The Holland, Pa. native was a key player for the Orange offense that ranked eighth nationally and first in the BIG EAST in third down conversion (49.3%) and led the conference in the conference in total offense (476.3).
Pugh blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher all three seasons. Prior to the 2012 season, Pugh was named to the 2012 Rotary Lombardi Award Official Watch List and the 2012 Outland Trophy Watch List, which recognizes the best interior lineman in college football.