TEMPE, Ariz. — The pact was made during a practice in 2010.
Chandler Jones was a junior, the starting right defensive end for Syracuse, and Justin Pugh was a sophomore starting at left tackle. Every day, the two squared off, helping the other get better.
Neither, Pugh said, realized how good they were — or could be.
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During one practice that season, NFL scouts lined the sidelines at Manley Field House, Syracuse’s practice facility. Jones and Pugh, both years from the NFL, noticed.
“It would give us bright eyes, like, you know, one day we could be an NFL player,” Jones said. “I remember one day we looked at each other and I said, ‘You know, we’re going to go first round. Let’s make a pact and say you’re going to go first round, I’m going to go first round and we’ll call each other the first-round boys — FRB we used to call each other.”
Both came to Syracuse as two-star recruits. Jones was recruited as a tight end, according to Rivals.com. Pugh came to Syracuse “out of shape” which led to him getting nicknamed “Pugh-ny,” he said.
Two years after making that pact, Jones was drafted 21st overall by the New England Patriots. A year later, in 2013, Pugh went 19th to the New York Giants.
Both fulfilled their ends of the deal.
“We held true,” Pugh said.
But, even five years later, Pugh doesn’t let Jones forget who was selected higher.
“He’s always pushing that in my face,” Jones said.
Now, however, Pugh can give Jones a hard time about his draft position from the same locker room.
They were reunited when Pugh signed a five-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals on March 17 as a free agent.
In college, Jones and Pugh were “really close,” Jones said.
Their friendship, which began as teammates, grew as neighbors in Syracuse. Pugh and his roommate, former college teammate Zack Chibane, were “big chefs,” Jones said. They were “always” grilling meats and Jones would swing by to eat “all the time.”
And now Jones hopes he and Pugh can share more meals.
When Jones walked into the Cardinals’ practice facility at 6:20 a.m. for the first day of offseason workouts in early April, Pugh was already there. He told Jones his body was still on Eastern time, so his internal clock was three hours ahead.
“My face lit up, because that was my first time actually seeing him in Arizona,” Jones said. “Gave him a big hug and I was like, ‘Wow, we’re on the same team again.’
“I’m excited to see Justin. I’m excited to see him gel here in Arizona. I’ve been helping him with recommendations and places to live, so hopefully he can be my neighbor.”
Only as long as Pugh promises to get a grill.