Mediaplanet: What does it mean to you to know that football fans can help children, just by doing what they love – enjoying the game? 

Justin Pugh: I think that it’s incredible – we all love football and if there’s a way for us to come together for these amazing kids and support such a great cause, it’s all the better. Why host a tailgate or watch event when you can party with a purpose?

MP: Why is children’s health an important topic to you? 

JP: My mom is an elementary school teacher and has worked with special needs children for years. I’ve always enjoyed going to speak to her classes and really just hangout with the kids – anything that I can do to be able to put a smile on their faces at the end of the day. 

MP: When did you start playing football? What kind of impact did football have on your childhood?

JP: I actually grew up playing hockey and only switched to football in seventh grade because I literally became too big for hockey. After I started playing, I never really looked back. As a whole, sports really taught me discipline and hard work. They taught me how to commit to something, the responsibility that goes along with it, and how to work with people of all different backgrounds. Sports are a great equalizer and really bring people together – they’ve taught me so many life lessons that are still applicable to me today and I’m sure will be for years to come.

MP: Before you became a professional football player, did you have any favorite game day traditions as a fan? 

UNCONDITIONAL: "Fans are what drive us as players. They come out and support us no matter what and really help get us through tough games and opponents."

JP: Growing up, my best friends and I would always go to the same bagel place by my house back in Pennsylvania to analyze the NFL games for that weekend and talk about who we thought would win each game. Then we’d go over to my buddy’s house and his mom would make us the most incredible homemade pizza. Looking back, we always had such a great time, but nothing can compare to strapping on my helmet and playing in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans.

MP: You must have a lot of faith in your fans. What do they mean to you?

JP: Fans are what drive us as players. They come out and support us no matter what and really help get us through tough games and opponents. When the Giants started off the season 0-6 last year, I heard time and time again from fans that they still had our backs and believed in the team and what we could do. As a player, it really gives you that feeling that the fans have your back. That support really makes everything easier knowing that they believe in you week after week.

MP: Have you ever received any crazy requests from fans? 

JP: Last year at training camp, I had a fan ask me to sign their baby – like autograph their child’s forehead. I compromised and signed the onesie, but it definitely caught me off guard.

MP: What’s your favorite football memory of all time?

JP: My last year at Syracuse, I missed the first four games of the season due to a minor injury. When I came back on the field, we were able to end the season on a high note and make a bowl game. We played West Virginia University in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York City. Being able to win my last collegiate football game was an incredible feeling, and one I’ll never forget – especially having done it at Yankee Stadium.

MP: If you weren’t a professional football player, what do you think you would be doing for a living instead?

JP: I’m sure that I would have ended up in broadcasting or a similar field where I could still talk about sports. 

MP: What are you looking forward to most about this season?

JP: My goal every year is going to be to help my team make the playoffs. This year, we’d like to redeem ourselves from how we started last season. I’m also really looking forward to hosting a few of the patients that I had the pleasure of meeting this summer at a Giants game later this season – having them on the field pre-game, giving them a tour afterward, the full experience.

MP: What are your ultimate goals with the Game Day for Love initiative? 

JP: ‘Game Day for LOVE’ is a party with a purpose and my main goal is to help recruit new players for the Shriners team. I invite all football fans to join together and to enjoy their favorite sport while hosting one of these events.