The Silent Assassins: Pugh & Fudge

Each day at the conclusion of another football practice at Clemson, some of the players are corralled by media members to get their thoughts on their own play or on the current condition of certain aspects of the team.

Players such as quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, linebacker Leroy Hill and cornerbacks Justin Miller and Tye Hill are some of those stopped most often.

Among those players that aren't asked to speak that often are two quiet players that are two of the more important aspects of Clemson's successful defense. But such is life for free safety Travis Pugh and rover Jamaal Fudge.

The always seem to be an afterthought in the minds of the media and fans. For various reasons, they just don't garner much attention.

"No question," Tigers defensive coordinator John Lovett said. "Fudge is probably the most underrated football player on the team, period. And so is Travis.

"I think if you go back and look at stats and look at where their tackles are and the number of snaps that they play, those two factors right there tells you how important they are to us. Then there's their leadership on the field and their ability to make plays when they're out there on the field."

The Clemson secondary is considered to be one of the best in the entire nation. However, the names of the defensive backs that are usually first mentioned are those of Miller and Hill, which play a high-profile position.

"I think we get overlooked because we've got two great corners and the main focus is on them, so they overlook us," Fudge said.
"Yeah, sometimes I think we get overlooked," Pugh, a senior, said. "People don't respect the safeties. The corners lockdown the outside and we lock down the inside. We don't get too much respect until we come out and hit somebody or intercept some passes. I feel like we should get some respect because it's the whole secondary. But they're corners and when they're in one-on-one coverage, they get all the attention."

And with Miller and Hill each being juniors, Fudge, a junior as well, might have to go through another year of playing second fiddle.

"I think we get overlooked because we've got two great corners and the main focus is on them, so they overlook us," Fudge said. "But I think we're pretty good back there. With Justin and Tye taking all the credit, we don't mind. We just go out and play our game to compliment them."

Another reason why Pugh and Fudge have a tendency to be disregarded is because of their personalities.

Neither one is an attention seeker.

"Jamaal's a quiet guy, but he had a really, really good year, and he's had a good spring, he's had a good summer and he's had a good preseason," Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden said. "He doesn't say nothing, but he makes plays. He's a tough guy.

Travis, the same thing. Travis doesn't say hardly nothing, but he's a very productive player."

However, other than the coaches, there's at least one person who fully appreciates and understands the kind of talent Pugh and Fudge bring every day.

"What people don't understand is that the safety position is probably one of strongest parts of our defense," Miller, an All-American candidate, said.

"They help us make a lot of plays. A lot of things we accomplish on the field wouldn't have been done without them. I give those guys a lot of credit. Travis is my quarterback out there. I know that if I get beaten that I've got Travis behind me to help me out – him and Jamaal."

So, while Hill and Miller continue to have the spotlight shine on them, Pugh and Fudge will continue to lurk in the shadows and wait for their brief moment in the sun.

"There's not a lot of complaining about it between us," Fudge said. "We're two laidback guys, but when it's time to go, we go full tilt. We're going to make a big play. We know our time is coming."

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