Auburn Football News & Notes

The report has news, notes and quotes from a variety of Auburn football personalities.

Auburn, Ala.--Former Tiger Mike Pucillo begins his life as a professional football player today at an orientation session for rookies who were drafted and signed as free agents by the NFL's Buffalo Bills. On Friday, he will participate in a mini-camp that will run through Sunday.

The 6-4, 315-pounder was selected in the seventh round of the draft as he watched on TV at home with his family and friends in Brandon, Fla. "My agent (Pat Dye, Jr.) told me that I could go anywhere in the sixth or seventh rounds or I might be a free agent," Pucillo says. "I knew going in that offensive guards were not going to be a high priority position in this draft so I was real happy when I found out they were going to draft me. It turned out that not a lot of guards were drafted.

"I got a phone call from Buffalo a few minutes before they selected me and told me that I was going to be their next pick," Pucillo says. "I talked to their offensive line coach and a couple of others. They said that they were looking for help on the offensive line and it will be a good opportunity for me in Buffalo."

Pucillo started every game his junior and senior seasons and started a combined total of 11 games as a redshirt freshman and sophomore. A broken bone caused him to miss part of the 1998 season and an elbow injury benched him for part of the 1999 campaign, but after that he was a fixture in the lineup.

In addition to playing guard, he saw some practice and game action at center, something that Buffalo liked about the Auburn senior. "They said they wanted me to strengthen their offensive line and they are looking at me to come in and back up at guard and center and hopefully move into a starting role down the line," Pucillo says.

The Auburn offensive lineman says when the phone rang, he was not expecting the Bills to be on the other end of the line. "Actually, I was surprised being drafted by Buffalo because I had talked to different teams, but I didn't know they were interested in me," he tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "The teams I had heard from the most were Philadelphia, Cleveland and Atlanta."

Now that the draft is done, Pucillo says he is eager to get started in Buffalo, but he admits he had some anxious moments last weekend. "It is so hard to get accurate information on players being drafted in the later rounds," he says. "I really wasn't sure where I would be taken. There are a lot of mixed feelings watching the draft, especially when you hit the seventh round and are worried that you might not even get taken. I was real happy when it was over."

Mike Pucillo is shown in action at an Auburn practice.

Pucillo is close to graduation and could have finished this spring if he had wanted to do that, however, he spent the past couple of months concentrating on football to improve his chances of being drafted. "I will be back in school next spring," he says. "I have one semester left to go before I graduate."

Pucillo says he has enjoyed being a student and football player at Auburn, but his college days have were not all pleasant due to struggles off the field. His mom, Rose Pucillo, battled multiple sclerosis and a brain tumor before passing away last June. Big Mike made the long drive home to the Tampa area almost every weekend he could spare to spend time with his mother. When she was well enough, he would literally pick her up and carry to movies or wherever she wanted to go.

Pucillo would have already finished his degree work if he hadn't moved home last spring to help take care of his mom when the family realized she didn't have long to live.

He also had to overcome problems on the football field. In 1998, he was one of the six different Tigers to suffered injuries while trying to play center during that ill-fated season. Pucillo suffered a broken bone in his foot in the opener vs. Virginia. He returned at the end of the season, but his teammate Ben Nowland was out for the rest of the year after breaking a bone in his foot at practice before the Florida game. While that was bad news for the 1998 team, it is good for the 2002 Tigers because Nowland returns this fall as the No. 1 center with lots of starting experience.

Offensive line coach Hugh Nall says that Pucillo will be missed. "He's a great kid to be around who works hard and plays hard. He has good body balance and a lot of smarts."

News and Notes: The first major football camp in the state of Alabama for seniors-to-be is this weekend. Nike sponsors a series of combines across the country and will hold one this weekend on the campus of the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa. Auburn coaches will be there in person checking out current juniors who are expected to be prospects this coming fall...Last season offensive tackle Mark Pera had a health setback when he came down with mononucleosis. He was never at full strength last fall as a redshirt sophomore, but looks like he will be a fixture in the starting lineup this year as either the weak tackle or tight tackle. He worked at both spots this spring...This year, another Tiger lineman has mono, however, it isn't nearly the issue that it was with Pera. Jeremy Wells is recovering from the illness, but if somebody had to be sick, it would hard to find a position where it would have less of an impact on the football team. Wells is a specialist who deep snaps on field goals and extra points. Virtually no running is involved and stamina is definitely not an issue. Michael Lindsey, who handles the punt team duties, is the deep snapper who has to do a lot of running on punt coverage...Lindsey was at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a spectator's role last Saturday to watch his friend Damon Duval participate in a midfield wedding ceremony. Duval's mother, Cynthia, married Travis Lindenmuth. Hal Smith, the retiring probate judge of Lee County, read the vows to the wedding party who gathered around the AU logo at the 50-yard-line. As the couple exited the stadium, the background music was definitely not wedding traditional as "Eye of The Tiger" was the song of choice. Duval is expected to be one of the top field goal kickers and punters in the country this season as a fifth-year senior. He recently won a scholar/athlete award from the National Football Foundation and was one of the organizers of a special day on campus this week when athletes put on a program for local elementary school students as they toured the campus...Backup fullback Michael Owens' post-spring practice shoulder surgery went well and team doctors expect the senior to be ready to go full speed for preseason practice.

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