While Ryan was smiling so were his father Toney and his mother Sandra. A family that is close on the field and off with Toney also Ryan's coach the last three seasons, the Pugh family had a decision on Thursday they could all be happy about.
"It's real big," Toney Pugh says. "You only have certain days and moments throughout your life that are really, really big. One of them is when your child is born because a lot of the others wouldn't take place without that. As you grow up I think every father always dreams of when his little one grows up that he's going to be, especially in the South, a big-time football player. I dreamed that and wished that, especially with me being a coach.
"As Ryan grew up and we worked out together and ran together, I've been with him just about non-stop for four years, we talked about it. I asked him, ‘What do you what to do?' He said that his number one goal was to be a college football player. I told him there were some things he had to do to make that happen. You've got to make good grades and you've got to act right and do all the right things. I think he's done that. You've got to develop a work ethic and he's done that. He's worked himself into a position for this to happen.
"We're just proud," Toney Pugh adds. "You lose words and what to say when there's a moment like this. It has to be one of the three or four biggest moments in our life right now. We're excited about it and I'm proud for him.
"It's one of those things where you preach something and preach something and then they do it and it pays off. I feel good about where he's going. That's home to me too, but whether that was the case or not I would feel good about it because Auburn's program is in the right direction. They've got a great coaching staff and Coach (Tommy) Tuberville and Coach (Hugh) Nall do a great job down there. It's going to be hard on me when he actually has to leave to go because we've been so tight. But, this is a great day."
Pugh poses with his family as he announces his commitment to Auburn at Hoover High School.
An Auburn family through and through with both Toney and Sandra growing up in Auburn and attending Auburn University, Ryan has always followed the Tigers as his college football team. However when it came time to choose a school to play football, Toney said the family was careful to make the choice for all the right reasons.
"When the recruiting process really started with him was last fall in his junior year," Toney Pugh notes. "That's when it really started kicking in. We sat down and talked about it. Me and my wife are both from Auburn. Our families still live there and that was home to us for a lot of years. I told him, ‘It doesn't matter where I want you to go our your mother or your grandparents, you've got to go where you feel comfortable.'
"We sat down and we had five or six things that we wanted to look at. One of them was academics because he's a very good student. That's important because everybody knows you can't play football forever. You've got to get a great education. We said we were going to look at the academics, make sure they were solid programs athletically and that they had good coaches. Also that you could fit in socially, because it's important that you fit in with the coaches and also you have to meet some of the players and get to know the players already and see if you fit in.
"We sat down and came up with some criteria to look at. We said take family and take distance and all that out and you get five or six choices and let's go look at them. He had thirty-something offers and we couldn't go see all those. We went to Clemson, Tennessee and LSU and spent a couple of days at each one. We came back and he said, ‘Dad, we did it the right way and this is the way I want to go. I want to go to Auburn. It's the place for me.'"
On the series of trips one SEC coach played an instrumental part in Pugh's ultimate decision to choose Auburn. While visiting LSU Pugh and his father were very impressed by the facilities and coaching staff of the Tigers, but it was something said while on the visit to Baton Rouge that made all the difference in the end.
"I think really Coach (Les) Miles sealed the deal for him," Toney Pugh said. "He did a great job at LSU, but when we sat down and met with him but one of the things he told him was ‘Ryan we would love to have you here at LSU, but take into consideration one thing. This isn't just about you, but also your family and everything else.' While I was trying to take that out of it, Coach Myles said it's important. I think that's when he chose Auburn."