NIU Has 25-Year-Old, 8th-Year Senior at Linebacker
I love Van Wilder. I almost was him in college. It took me six years, and three changes in majors to get my Mass Communications Degree, but I did it. (Actually, I think my professors took pity on me, and just passed me to get me outta there.) But by the time I got to my sixth year, I pretty well slept through my courses and did the absolute bare minimum just to get my degree and not get kicked out.
It's rare to find a person who has spent six or more years in college, for their undergrad, and is still contributing in a major way to their own education and the school. This is NOT the case for NIU linebacker Kyle Pugh, who is now in his 8th year at Northern Illinois, has two degrees with a master's on the way and still playing on the team.
He was a college freshman the same year as Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray, and once recorded a tackle on current Vikings (former Lions) tight end TJ Hockenson.
But that's been five or more years ago, and college athletes are only allowed five years of eligibility with a redshirt. HOW did this happen?
Well, Pugh is the exception due to a number of injuries during his time at NIU. He signed as a linebacker in 2015 - back when Barack Obama was still President of the United States. He redshirted his first season and served as a backup in the 2016 season. Finally, in 2017, he won a starting role, opening the season against Wyoming (with Josh Allen at QB).
But that's when the injuries started rolling in. In the fourth game of 2019, Pugh tore his bicep and received his first medical redshirt.
The next season, he played every game and earned second-team All-MAC honors with 106 tackles on the year. But in 2019, another injury - a broken shoulder socket in his other arm.
Medical redshirt Number Two.
Again, he was put on redshirt injury, and missed the rest of the season.
The NCAA said the 2020 season wouldn't count against any student athlete's eligibility, so that was a wash, and in 2021, again, Pugh suffered an injury with a torn ACL on the final day of Spring Practice - his THIRD medical redshirt.
Enter the 2022 season.
Now, Pugh is 25 - playing football with kids who were freshmen in high school during his first college senior year. One of his most unbelievable teammates is freshman receiver Alex Crawford, who was starting the seventh grade when his older brother, Daniel, started playing with the Huskies... whom Pugh played with in HIS freshman year.
This is for sure going to be his final year in college and might be the first athlete to ever graduate with a doctorate in football.
EIGHT YEARS in college, man... that's crazy.
Some things that were popular when Pugh was a freshman in 2015:
- Drake's "Hotline Bling" was the biggest song on the planet
- "Hamilton" was breaking through on Broadway
- The world is introduced to Caitlyn Jenner
- Tom Brady only had four rings
- The Jon Snow cliffhanger on Game of Thrones
- Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of killing Odin Lloyd
- "Zoolander" was released
- "Pizza Rat," "Runaway Llamas," and "Why the F*** you Lyin'" takes over the internet
- "The Dress" (Is it black and blue, or gold and white?)
The dress was black and blue, btw.
Hopefully he can make it in the NFL, because to pursue football for EIGHT YEARS in college, only to get snubbed in the pros would be soul-crushing.
At the very least, put him on someone's practice squad. Seeing how he's navigated his college career, he'll find a way to stretch his pro career even longer than Tom Brady.