The new University of Akron coaching staff didn’t know its players coming into spring practice.
They knew even less about Jarrod Pughsley, a redshirt junior.
All Pughsley has done in 13 practices is come on to take over the starting left tackle spot on the offensive line, putting an exclamation point on his career at UA.
Pughsley, who had a host of interest from Division II schools coming out of Lima Senior High School, chose to walk on for the Zips, feeling that he had the ability to play football at the Division I level.
He also walked on with 50 pounds of excess weight.
“I worked my butt off to get on scholarship,” Pughsley said. “I have a single mother; it’s all the motivation that I needed.”
Pughsley took off the weight, beginning in January 2010, and worked on it continuously. Injuries kept him off the field except for a few games last season. But to watch him play, he looks as if he always has been a fit at the left tackle position.
He’s long at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, giving him plenty of range to pass protect. In fact, he’s one of the few offensive linemen who have been able to contain Zips defensive end Albert Presley during drills. Yes, it’s only practice, but he fits the mold of what coach Terry Bowden’s offense needs at that position.
“In what we do offensively, we can’t have non-athletic linemen,” offensive line coach Alan Arrington said. “We got to have guys who move their feet. I think now, after 13 practices, there’s no question he’s the guy who will be at left tackle. There’s nobody even close.”
It would have been easy for Pughsley to walk on and to be satisfied, spending time getting beat up on the scout team.
That he worked his way into the player he is now really says something.
“As a walk-on I think it just shows his personal commitment to the sport and to the game,” Bowden said.
Pughsley has never met his father. He was born in California, but his mother returned to Ohio when he was six weeks old. Whereas some might consider that a distinct disadvantage, he looks at it differently, perhaps because he had uncles who served as role models in his life.
“Growing up, I was pretty much the man of the house,” Pughsley said. “Just being the man of the house and taking care of everything and taking care of my little sister, I had to grow up early. But it helped me more than it hurt, and I just had to be mature about situations.”
That has served him. Bowden said he has seen a tremendous drive and an unwillingness to fail in Pughsley, both of which are tinged with a touch of nastiness on the field. Arrington said he would be disappointed if Pughsley didn’t make the All-Mid-American Conference team next season. Bowden said the long-term potential is greater.
“He’s a compassionate caring person who is a great role model and representative of the university,” Bowden said. “Right now, as he plays, if he will have the right attitude in the weight room and the right attitude on the field, he looks to be an Akron Zip that can play on Sundays [in the NFL].”
That isn’t necessarily a goal for him.
“I’m in math education, so I want to go back and coach high school football and help out kids,” Pughsley said. “I just want to be the best that I can be here, but if the opportunity presents itself, I wouldn’t mind playing in the league. I’m just focused on doing well at Akron right now. Whatever comes, comes.”