McKenzie’s Pugh signs to Huntingdon
Cheers of proud parents and friends echoed through the otherwise silent library of McKenzie School Wednesday morning—but not without a share of tears, as well— as senior Condie “CJ” Pugh signed a letter of intent to play football for Huntingdon College.
The McKenzie Tigers’ offensive repertoire deployed a number of weapons during the 2015 football season, but few knives were as sharp as Pugh at the wide receiver position.
His nimble frame elevated for a number of big-time catches for the Tigers not only throughout the year, but also throughout his storied varsity career.
Perhaps few were as memorable as the Hail Mary from then-quarterback Terrance Clemons to Pugh that kept the team’s playoff hopes alive over the Isabella Mustangs in 2014 on a fourth-down prayer.
For head football coach Tony Norris, making such plays was second nature to Pugh, but it was hardly the sum of his value to McKenzie football, and athletics in general.
“It’s going to be hard to replace him. He was a great leader this past year for us in football and leading up to his senior year,” Norris said.
“He’s a team guy who is willing to do whatever to help the team win. And it’s going to take some younger guys stepping up to help replace that character and key role guy that we need.”
It’s easy to see and assess Pugh’s on-the-field performance, but it’s the more intangible aspects of his character that often proved just as important—and will prove just as difficult to replace.
“He cares about his community, he cares about the school and the kids in the school,” Norris continued. “He was a community person.”
For Pugh, who garnered attention from the U.S. Naval Academy, Samford University and many other college institutions, the matter of choosing a college came down to settling on a place where he would shine best.
“I had other opportunities, but it was just the best fit for me,” Pugh said.
“I like the campus. And it’s a nice program. They’re winning, and that’s something that will get me started for the next two to four years.”
Pugh is hardly the only member of the 2016 graduating class from Butler County who is bound for Huntingdon in the fall. Greenville High School running back Skilar Moorer and Fort Dale Academy offensive lineman Reed Crosby will also be Huntingdon Hawks in the coming year.
“It didn’t influence my decision, but I know them and I knew that they were going,” Pugh said.
“It’s a good way to start with people that I can get to know from the same place.”
It was Norris who broke the silence first at Pugh’s signing event, and though the occasion was bittersweet, he instead opted to reflect on the hopeful future of one of McKenzie’s brightest stars.
“We’re excited about this,” Norris said. “It’s something that he’s worked hard for, and he’s finally going to be able to go to college, play football and achieve his dream after high school. Not many people get to do it, so we’re proud of him.
“We couldn’t have a better role model, or a better representation of McKenzie going on to Huntingdon and playing college ball.”