SnapShot: Jimond Pugh

Jimond Pugh came to the Steelers with two distinguishing characteristics. One, word was that he'd impressed line coach Russ Grimm, and, two, that Pugh had a famous relative not named Jethro. <br><br> Grimm, when asked for the record, would only say, "He's got a chance."

It's actually a positive comment for an undrafted free agent lineman, but it's not nearly as impressive as the second characteristic, Pugh's bloodlines.

Jimond Pugh, the 6-foot-2, 311-pound center out of Memphis University, was born in Pensacola, Fla., which is also home to Roy Jones, Jr., arguably the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of our era. Pugh and Jones are cousins.

"It's a good relationship," said Pugh. "Early on we hung out a lot, but now I back off. He has so much going on I just try to stay away a little bit."

On March 1, Jones became the first boxer in 106 years to win a world heavyweight title after already winning a world middleweight title. Pretty heady stuff, but the son of Jones' father's cousin and closest companion has pretty heady aspirations of his own.

"Yeah, it's a nice little dream, you know," Pugh said. "It's not too bad."

He's a long shot. Not only must Pugh contend with a pair of centers – Jeff Hartings and Chukky Okobi – who've been with the Steelers for two years, Pugh must also compete with newly signed center/guard Calvin Collins, a starter in the Super Bowl following the 1998 season.

"To be honest, I didn't even know they were interested," Pugh said of the Steelers. "The Thursday before the draft, my agent called me and said ‘If you don't get drafted, the Steelers want to sign you.' And I mean, you can't beat that. The Steelers? I mean, they're second to none. They should be there every year."

Has Pugh always been a Steelers fan?

"We won't comment on the favorite team growing up," he said.

Growing up in Pensacola, Pugh was a scholar and an athlete. The honors student was a second-team 6-A All-State player who also excelled in the school's track and weightlifting programs. Known as ‘Mond' to his family and friends, Pugh attended Florida A&M before transferring to Memphis, where his dad had transferred.

Pugh played guard for Memphis in 1999 but moved to center in 2000 and played every snap. In fact, his streak of 1,062 consecutive snaps was broken in the middle of the 2001 season when he was given a four-play breather against Southern Miss.

"That's me," Pugh said. "If you love to play, you don't want to come out. I was just doing my job."

He was voted team captain in 2002 by his teammates and went on to become a first-team all-conference performer. He finished his career as one of the most respected players on the team. Smart, strong, tough and dedicated, on the field and off, Pugh carries his family's athletic lineage well.

"He's a good guy, a real nice guy and a real good player," said Dante Brown, a running back at Memphis who's now with the Steelers. "At Memphis he started every game. He was a good guy to run behind."

"People respected me," Pugh said. "If you can play, you can play. Everybody doesn't notice that. I'm just glad the Steelers did.

"I'm a fanatic about everything that involves football," he added. "But here, it seems like I'm so small and starting from the bottom again. But it'll come on again. I think my chances are good. I just have to cut down on the mistakes. That's what it's all about."

Jim Wexell

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