By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Standing 6-feet, 5-inches tall, Michael Pugh looked ready for primetime back in 2010 when then Munford Head Football Coach Matt Saunders implimented the sophomore into the starting offensive line.
But Pugh would be the first to admit he was nervous and still had a lot to learn. Over the next three seasons he emerged as a premiere tackle guiding the Cougars to back-to-back playoff appearances.
And along with his natural gifts, Pugh developed his skills and educated himself on the game earning a college scholarship to Northwest Mississippi.
“It was my sophomore year, my first year starting and basically my second year of playing major football, we had three seniors ahead of me,” he recalled. “They all didn’t work out so they put me in there starting right tackle my sophomore year. First real action, no experience, I went in there thrown into the fire.
“I started getting myself some good experience,” Pugh continued. “My junior year, I knew every thing, I knew all the plays and I knew what to do. I starting to help instruct everybody and telling what to do and how to do it. This past year, my senior year, we had two sophomores like I was starting. I knew exactly what they went through. So I knew exactly what to tell them.”
Pugh emerged as one of the leaders of the 2012 Cougars. And some of the leaders in his life came to the Munford High School Library on March 20 to celebrate his signing. Along side Pugh were his parents Rebecca and Gwyn, administrators Courtney Fee and Michael Huffman and offensive line coach Aaron Marshall.
“From day one, we said this is a big project for us,” Marshall recalled. “But we thought he had the potential to be a real good offensive lineman. I think as the year progressed his freshman year, he improved. His sophomore year he improved a lot. His junior year, he started getting into his own. His senior year, it speaks for itself. He was our best offensive lineman the past two years.
“He has a great work ethic,” he added. “He went to a few camps that improved his skills and that got him this offer right here. He’s a great worker and he’s positive for everything. He was my quarterback for the offensive line. He told everybody what to do. Everybody looked up to him. He was the best leader I had here at Munford for a while.”
Marshall said Pugh had a strong mindset because of his upbringing. Mom points the finger at her husband for that.
“His father has authored a book,” she noted. “That’s pretty genius. He wrote the book Commentary on Revelation published by Randal House in Nashville.”
Gwyn said spiritual guidance and Rebecca’s nurture helped make Michael a strong-minded and focused player.
“She homeschooled Michael for the first eight years,” he said. “Then he came here in the ninth grade. It was the right decision to let him come to Munford High absolutely.”
Rebecca said the teachers and administrators at MHS help continue Michael’s progression toward college.
“This a wonderful place of nurturing and caring,” she said. “It was encouraging to him and I think all students.”
Gwyn said Michael’s stop at the home of the Cougars seemed destined.
“We felt God created Michael to play football,” he said. “And Munford High School has been a very important part of that design for his life. We couldn’t be more pleased with the Munford School system.”
With solid foundations in his education, physical development and spiritual side, Marshall said Northwest is getting the total package in Pugh.
“He has a combination of both mental and physical strength,” he said. “He’ll listen to you. That’s hard these days. He’s a great listener. All I have to do is tell him one time. And once he got it, he relayed it to the other guys. His leadership qualities are fantastic. He’s got great feet. His first two steps are awesome.”
Pugh first started playing football for Millington SYS under “tremendous training.” Then once he entered high school and would become a feature part of the offensive line, he started working toward his dream of playing college football.
“Every since freshman year, they told me I was going to play in college,” Michael recalled. “Every since freshman year I’ve been trying to work hard in order to get to this point. I’ve been working, lifting weights and working on getting my feet better. Colleges look at your feet when you’re an offensive lineman. I got that taken care of. It takes a lot of hard work in the weight room and outside with the coaches.”
The signing to Northwest was not only a dream come true but the ideal closing chapter to his senior year. But Michael said the top moment of the season and his high school career still took place Sept. 7-8.
“The M&M Bowl will be the highlight, the way we won it,” he said. “It was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of taking two days. We were up and had it. All of a sudden they took the lead 28-21. I remember like it was yesterday. We came out onto the field and I could sense everybody in the stadium was doubting us. But we knew we had to go down there and score.
“We led them down the field,” Pugh concluded. “And on that last play we held out our blocks for that touchdown. On that two-point conversion we knew we had to hold our blocks a extra long because we called a longer play that took time to develop. We scored and that was the best feeling I’ve ever had. It was better than making the playoffs for the first time, beating Millington.”